Now before everyone gets on my case about the Collective Bargaining Agreement and whether or not we have a season in 2011, let’s just look at the perspective as if we are going to have one. Imagine the NFL and NFLPA have come to a deal on a new CBA and that the 2011 season will happen. Better now?
It’s time to take a look at the free agents that are on the New Orleans Saints roster and try to determine whether or not they’ll return to the team next season. After winning Super Bowl XLIV, the Saints really only lost Scott Fujita and Mike Bell during free agency so not much changed. Well, that could be very different this year as a larger number of players could move elsewhere.
First off, let’s take one of the major names in black and gold over the past few years: Pierre Thomas.
Thomas has been with the Saints since 2007 when he arrived as an undrafted free agent and he’s certainly made a name for himself not only with the team but with the city. Fans in New Orleans love him because he’s an overall good guy and a hard-nosed runner that is great in the passing attack with Drew Brees.
But when in the NFL, injuries are a major concern and it can’t be overlooked that Thomas constantly suffers from them. In four seasons with the Saints, he has yet to play a complete season due to ankle or knee or some other type of injury. That’s not saying he doesn’t give 150% when on the field, but he needs to be on the field more.
The NFL has become a passing league in recent years yet it is still known that a productive running game is needed to open up the air attack even more. A consistent running game will help the Saints receivers get open more for Brees to find downfield.
Thomas just can’t stay on the field enough to do this. Even when he did stay on the field almost a full season (2009), he didn’t break 800 yards for the year. There are teams in this league with 3,500 yard passers and running backs breaking the 1,000 yard milestone. The Saints need that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Thomas and think he is an integral part of the Saints’ offensive mastery. No-one runs that screen pass better than he does and the touchdown in the Super Bowl last year proves that fact. The problem is that other backs have been stepping up in his absence and its beginning to make it seem as if Thomas is more expendable than the Who Dat Nation would like to believe he is.
Will Reggie Bush be back next season? I don’t know, but that’s a question for another day. Even without being able to answer that though, the Saints have very reliable backs ready to step it up.
Now second-year player Chris Ivory was the leading rusher for the Saints last season and Lynell Hamilton will surely be back from injury making for a very formidable backfield tandem. Sure you’re going to say that the Saints went through running backs in 2010 like NASCAR going through tires but that was just a freak injury bug all around.
Pierre Thomas has dealt with that bug for his entire career so far.
Let’s look at it from the other side now. Does Thomas want to even come back to New Orleans?
Rumors began to stir last season that his injury wasn’t as bad as the Saints made it out to be and that a rift with coach Sean Payton was causing Thomas to sit out longer. I’m not entirely sure how much validity is in those rumors, but we don’t always know everything.
Word has gotten out already in this offseason that it is almost a guarantee that Thomas won’t be back for the 2011 season with the Saints. Many teams around the league would love to have the bruising back in their offense and he’d have no problem finding a team to sign with. Will he get starter’s money? Not just yet, but he will get a good deal if he can prove himself healthy.
There are just too many factors working against the reutn of Pierre Thomas to the Crescent City next year even though I’d love to see him come back. But I’d love to see him back if he’s actually out there on the field producing because let’s face it, that is what the team needs. They need a running back who is not only popular and good but actually playing the game for a full 16 (or possibly 18) week season.
His production, big smile, pounding runs, and great moves on the screen passes will truly be missed if Thomas were to sign elsewhere. Let’s face it though Who Dat Nation…haven’t those things already been missed even though he’s still been with the team the past couple years?
Prediction: Pierre Thomas is not a Saint next season
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