Darren Sharper upset with Saints

Darren Sharper, who is an unrestricted free agent, is a little miffed after the Saints told him that they wouldn’t use their franchise tag on him this offseason.

From NFL.com:

“They said they want me back, but if you want someone back, why are you going to let them test the market?,” Sharper said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I don’t know how much they want me back if they’re allowing other teams to bid for my services. Being in this situation before, if a team is willing to let you test the market, they’re willing to let you go.”

Sharper did say that he hopes things will work out with the Saints, but also noted that he won’t come as cheap as he did last year ($1.7 million). He didn’t have many suitors last offseason, but he’s coming off a Pro Bowl season and says that he has “a couple of good years” left in him.

Personally, I think Sharper is being a little too sensitive here. Had the Saints used their franchise tag on him, they’d have to pay him $6.455 million next season, which is way too much – even for a player as productive as Sharper was. It’s not that they don’t want him back, they just don’t want to pay a 34-year-old safety over six million when he was clearly motivated last year while playing on a one-year deal. It just doesn’t make much sense financially.

Chances are, Sharper will wind up back in New Orleans as long as the Saints offer him a fair deal. Like Sharper said, he knows the system and the Saints were much more successful with him in their defensive backfield than they were without him. But he has to step into their shoes and understand that they’re not going to shell out upwards of $6.5 million to retain an aging safety.

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Reggie Bush unlikely to be a Saint in 2010?

According to Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports, the Saints won’t bring back Reggie Bush in 2010.

Speaking of running backs, don’t expect New Orleans running back Reggie Bush, who is due to count for approximately $8 million against the cap next season, to stay with the team. One Saints insider said general manager Mickey Loomis isn’t interested in carrying Bush’s salary, even if there is an uncapped season. Bush’s cap number and secondary importance to the team could create conflict in a locker room where several players, such as wide receiver Marques Colston, are expected to cash in soon.

This isn’t a complete shock given that Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell have proven they can excel in Sean Payton’s offense. Plus at $8 million, Bush would be rather expensive for a back that can’t run between the tackles.

What’s interesting is that some team will no doubt overpay for his services because he’s a potential highlight reel. Nobody denies that he’s a great athlete, but he’s going to be overvalued if the Saints do decide to part ways with him after the season.

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What is going on with the Saints’ running back situation?

According to Saints’ beat writer Jeff Duncan via his Twitter page, Lynell Hamilton took the first-team reps for New Orleans during practice on Wednesday. Duncan expects Hamilton to see a heavy workload against the Bills, which begs the question: What is going on with the Saints running back situation?

My question revolves around Sean Payton’s obvious hatred (okay, so I’m exaggerating) for Pierre Thomas, who practiced on Wednesday but who still isn’t seeing first-team reps in practice. I understand that he’s been battling a knee injury, but if he went through practice on Wednesday with no complications, why is Hamilton expected to get the majority of the rushing load on Sunday?

It stands to reason that the Saints may have possibly soured on Thomas, whom many people (me included) thought would have a breakout year in 2009. Thomas was supposed to be New Orleans’ every down back this year and the perfect complement to Reggie Bush. But whether it’s his knee or the possibility that he egged Payton’s house at some point during the offseason, Thomas has taken a backseat to other backs like Hamilton.

Just to get you up to speed on Hamilton, he went undrafted in 2008 and spent the entire season on the Saints’ practice squad. He made the team this year as a fourth back despite fumbling twice in the team’s preseason opener. Had Thomas and Bush not been dinged up entering the season, it stands to reason that Hamilton may not have even made the final roster.

And with that, it’s perplexing that Hamilton would get the start over Thomas this week. Again, maybe Payton and the Saints are still worried about Thomas’ knee and they’re taking it slow with him. But if they’ve soured on him being a No. 1 back, then do him (and fantasy football fans for that matter) a favor and either release him or trade him to a team that could use a runner with his skill set.

Here’s hoping Thomas eventually gets to shine in this league, because he certainly has the talent.

Unless this sorts itself out by week’s end, the message is clear: Stay away from Thomas/Hamilton this weekend if you can. The Saints might be taking it easy on Thomas during the week so that he can start on Sunday, or maybe they don’t feel good about his knee and are planning to give him another week by getting Hamilton ready to start. Hopefully, the Saints’ beat writers will get some answers for us, but HC Sean Payton is tight-lipped about injuries, so we may not get any before kickoff.

Minnesota judge says Williams Wall can play

A Minnesota judge has ruled that Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, who were appealing four game suspensions for violating the NFL’s policy on anabolic steroids, can play the entire season according to a report by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Per the report, the only way this ruling won’t be upheld is if a federal court claims jurisdiction over the Williams Wall’s lawsuit, challenging the NFL’s drug-testing procedures.

(District Court Judge Gary) Larson stayed action in his courtroom until the U.S. District Court determines whether it has jurisdiction on some of the players’ claims. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson said the court does not, but a federal three-judge panel is hearing an appeal of his ruling in St. Paul on Aug. 18.

If the federal court determines the case should be conducted in state court, Larson wrote, “it is not likely that the [Hennepin County] court would, or could force [the players] into trial during the middle of a playing season, based on the court’s schedule.”

This is obviously huge for the Vikings, who have the best run defense in the NFL with the Williams Wall intact. If Minnesota hopes to build upon the success it had last year, than it’ll need their stud defensive tackles manning the interior of its defensive line all season.

I wonder what this means for Saints defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant, who, like the Williams Wall, were given four-game suspensions as well. I’m assuming that since the Williams Wall will be able to play, so will Smith and Grant.

This is the never-ending saga.

Brees says Thomas is Saints’ No. 1 back now

In a recent radio interview in New Orleans, Saints quarterback Drew Brees admitted that Pierre Thomas is considered the team’s number one back now. Brees also said that he felt Reggie Bush will be able to “step in and do a great job”, but he believes that Thomas is the total package.

For those of you that haven’t hopped on the Thomas bandwagon yet, there’s plenty of room. Despite Sean Payton’s foolish attempt to try and add another back to the mix this offseason, the Saints (not just Brees) feel as though Thomas can be their workhorse and the backbone of their running game next season.

According to a study done by STATS inc., Thomas led the league last year in fewest rushing attempts for negative yardage. Some believe that he struggles in short yardage situations and that’s why the team considered drafting a big back like Chris “Beanie” Wells in April. But those of you that paid close attention to Thomas last year saw a back that can deliver in any situation.

So what happens to Bush? Well considering most NFL teams have adopted the two-back system, nothing. In fact, if Thomas takes the brunt of the work next year, Bush could benefit by seeing less carries and therefore staying healthy (something he’s failed to do so far in his career) throughout the course of the season.

It’s obviously too early to make any predictions, but the Saints should be right back in contention next year for a playoff berth. Their offense will be potent, although how well the defense plays will once again be the biggest factor in how much success they have.

But one thing is for sure – Thomas is going to play a big role in the Saints’ offense in ’09.

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