With March 11 marking the official start of the new league year, the New Orleans Saints have begun shifting their attention to their four restricted free agents.
All players who have contributed during their tenures in New Orleans, are the 4 restricted free agents in focus as the team's plan of action for free agency begins to take shape.
Restricted free agents can sign offer sheets with other teams, but if they have been tendered, the Saints have the option to match any terms that the player has agreed to.
Safety - R. Bush
Bush, an undrafted Safety out of South Carolina State, had a good season rotating in the secondary with soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Malcolm Jenkins and rookie Kenny Vaccaro. The team remains high on Bush and would like to bring him back, meaning he is likely to be tendered. Having appeared in 15 games with 7 starts, Bush recorded 42 tackles, 5 pass defenses and a fumble recovery during the regular season. He also started both of the Saints playoff games after Vaccaro was lost for the season during week 16.Safety Rafael Bush
WR - J. Morgan
Morgan, a speedy receiver who entered 2013 training camp in position to battle for a bigger role in the Saints' offense, was lost for the year after suffering a serious knee injury in August. The Saints are interested in retaining Morgan's services, but with his lengthy rehabilitation still ongoing and the team's productive stable of receivers to consider, it is likely they would prefer to bring him back at a cheaper rate than the low tender of $1.39 million. Injuries have limited Morgan to just 14 games in his 3 years as a Saint, but he has shown glimpses of what he is capable of bringing to the team as a deep threat. His 80 yard touchdown reception from Drew Brees at Green Bay during the 2012 season comes to mind.
FB - J. Collins
Collins, one of the best lead blockers in Football, is also set to become a restricted free agent. As with Bush and Morgan, the Saints are very interested in keeping him in black and gold, whether by tendering him or agreeing terms on a multiyear contract. When the Saints commit to the run, Collins has paved the way for Saints Running Backs while also showing his ability to catch high percentage balls from Brees in the flats. Having already made the rounds with several teams during his short career, Collins has seemingly found his niche as a Saint, and there is likely mutual interest in getting some kind of a deal done that can suit both parties.
DL - T. JohnsonFullback Jed Collins
The least likely of the quartet to be brought back for 2014 is Johnson. The team is will not tender Johnson, who has been part of the defensive line rotation since 2011. The former CFL Defensive tackle should have opportunities elsewhere as the Saints are eager to move on with their younger crop of defensive linemen. Johnson's spot will likely go to a draft pick or, perhaps, another diamond in the rough undrafted project, which the Saints have done such great work in unearthing over the years.
As the new league year draws closer, the Saints have already begun positioning themselves, having shed some of the salary that had them over the cap by releasing players over the last 2 weeks. Their ability to retain players such as Bush and Collins at favorable rates will be instrumental in regards to their ideas for the rest of their free agency game plan. With not much cap space to play with, and Jimmy Graham's contract situation a giant elephant in the room, free agency will be all about value for the New Orleans Saints in 2014.