NEW ORLEANS â€“ In an effort to gauge the interest level in keeping running back Reggie Bush in New Orleans, please answer the following questions:Â
Which player is more critical to the future success of the New Orleans Saints? In other words, pick one.
Besides Bush, all of the 13 aforementioned players already are or might become unrestricted free agents under a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. As all of the Free World probably knows by now, Bush is under contract to make $11.8 million in base salary this coming season and will count $16 million against the salary cap.
In my opinion, Moore, Harper, Bushrod and Thomas are more valuable to the Black and Gold than Bush, and each of the remaining nine players brings a tangible quality to the table at a far cheaper price.
I have a strong sense that a vast majority of Who Dat Nation could care less if Bush comes or goes when the NFL finally resumes business. To be honest, the bloom was off his rose a long time ago.
Yet, from a business standpoint, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2006 draft and the deposed 2005 Heisman Trophy winner still possesses value, either via trade or back with the Black and Gold at the right price.
â€œItâ€™s an easy contract to do structure-wise,â€™â€™ one astute NFL deal-maker told SportsNOLA.com. â€œThe hard part is to come up with the numbers inside the contract.
â€œResearch the contracts of players with similar skills sets â€“ Devin Hester and Darren Sproles come to mind. Then, take the $11.8 million and convert it to a fair signing bonus, base salaries and likely-to-be-earned incentives based on his first five yearâ€™s production at each skill set (rushing, receiving, punt returns, all-purpose yards, etc.). Tie his production and playing percentage (snaps) to team accomplishments â€“ winning the division and conference championships and Super Bowl.
â€œDangle a carrot; donâ€™t make it easy for him to make his money but donâ€™t make it impossible, either. Make him earn it. Give him slightly-above-minimum annual base salaries. There is a fair, equitable deal to be made, maybe three years with an option, but itâ€™s not $11.8 million.â€™â€™
One assumes, perhaps wrongly, that Bush wants to remain with the Saints. Publicly, team officials and Bush have said they want to continue their association, though RB25 has sent out mixed messages to the contrary during the past few months.
â€œThe fact that (agent) Joel Segal represents both Bush and (Saints No. 1 draft pick, running back) Mark Ingram is a clear conflict of interest both for the team and the players,â€™â€™ the NFL deal-maker said.
â€œThere are a multitude of avenues to go down to get (Bush) under contract. If Bush REALLY wants to be there in New Orleans, then the agent is working with one hand tied behind his back. Youâ€™ll find out right away if (Bush) wants to be there, if he balks.â€™â€™
A recent Yahoo! Sports report said Saints officials granted Bush/Segal permission to explore a trade in February prior to the CBA deadline, a report that Bush has denied to WWL.com. That said, it wouldnâ€™t be the first time Saints GM Mickey Loomis allowed other teams to create a market price (high or low) for one of his players.
What could Saints officials get for Bush in a trade? It all depends on the timing of the trade and the number of teams that showed interest: the more interest, the more leverage the player and Saints officials would command. My guess is there would be interest from several teams in need of a complementary role player, resulting in the Saints acquiring a â€œfirm fourth-round pick that could go to a (conditional) three,â€™â€™ the deal-maker said.
Contrary to what many of his detractors think, Bush has value. After five mostly sizzle, little steak seasons, his resumeâ€™ indicates he is most dangerous in open space as a slot receiver and coming out of the backfield. He has 294 receptions for 2,142 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a runner, he has carried 524 times for 2,090 yards and 17 TDs, in addition to returning four punts for scores.
I still believe a healthy Reggie Bush, in the proper role and in the right frame of mind, can be a relatively productive player in New Orleans.
Unfortunately for RB25, Ingramâ€™s arrival greatly diminishes Bushâ€™s leverage in the Big Easy, not that he was going to make anything close to $11.8 million. Simply, he will play for the Saintsâ€™ best offer or he will be gone.
Either way, Reggie Bush no longer will be grossly overpaid.
In the end, the grass â€“ and the money â€“ is likely to be greener elsewhere. In fact, a change of scenery could reinvent him.
If given an opportunity, I say â€œRun, Reggie, Runâ€™â€™ as far away from New Orleans as you can.
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