Pierre Thomas’ story with the New Orleans Saints is one most close to the sport can appreciate.
Thomas went undrafted in 2007 out of the University of Illinois and manged to become one of two undrafted rookies to make the Saints final roster that year.
With the likes of Deuce McAllister, Reggie Bush and Aaron Stecker ahead of him on the depth chart Thomas had to sit and wait patiently for his moment to shine.
Finally during the Saints last regular season game against the Chicago Bears he was awarded the start after injuries to McAllister and Bush.
Thomas managed to put a game together for the ages, one that he has still not surpassed in his four year career, totaling 226 total yards from scrimmage (105 rushing, 121 receiving) and one touchdown.
Even though the Saints still lost, Thomas had definitely won.
His success at the end of the 2007 season was awarded with a more prominent role in the Saints offense where he quickly became the teams top rusher in 2008 (625 yards, nine touchdowns) and 2009 (793 yards, six touchdowns).
The 793 yards rushing was a new career high for Thomas which helped the Saints to a fifth ranked rush attack overall in 2009, he was as also an instrumental part of the Saints Super Bowl XLIV win over the Indianapolis Colts.
All was not ‘peaches and cream’ however as a rift began to form between he and the Saints organization in the off season last year.
Thomas, an unrestricted free agent, was hoping to secure a lucrative long term contract to return to the Saints in 2010 but the team was not willing to give him the type of money he desired, rumored to be in the range of Steven Jackson’s six-year $44.8 million dollar contract.
Thomas held out the first few weeks of training camp in an effort to force the teams hand in negotiations but eventually gave into the Saints one-year tender offer of just under $3 million dollars.
Three weeks into the regular season Thomas would suffer a devastating ankle injury late in the Saints loss to the Atlanta Falcons that ultimately would cause him to miss ten games and land on injured reserve prior to the teams wild card match up with the Seattle Seahawks.
Now coming of a very unproductive season and major ankle surgery the questions has been proposed, will he return to the Saints in 2011?
While the franchise has made mention they would like to retain Thomas for the foreseeable future his return is anything but guaranteed and likely he will be allowed to test the market, barring the status of free agency under the expiring CBA agreement.
If a new CBA is not put in place by the March 3rd deadline free agency could be nullified and the players may be faced with a lockout by the owners, for more information on what you can do to help ‘block the lockout’ please visit NFLlockout.com for more details.
In part one of this series of articles we will start with number five team that could potentially pursue Thomas and world towards the number one landing spot for him if indeed he does not return to the Saints.
5. Washington Redskins:
Long time Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan took over the Redskins in the off season last year and proceeded to sign every veteran free agent running back on the market in an attempt to rebuild the ground game and compliment number one back Clinton Portis.
The experiment went south rather quickly as the team decided to part ways with ex-Steeler Willie Parker in the pre-season and chose to reluctantly give the starting job to the often legally challenged former Chief Larry Johnson.
Johnson, after a few very unproductive games, was quickly demoted into a backup role exclusively and was later released in September of 2010.
Portis was unable to stay healthy (groin tear) appearing in only five games rushing for 227 yards and two touchdowns. His absence forced the Redskins to use a trio of players to take over the rushing duties consisting of Ryan Torain, Keiland Williams, Mike Sellers and James Davis.
Torain was the most productive of the running backs rushing for 742 yards and four touchdowns, and while certainly his performance maintains he will see a big role in 2011, the Redskins ranked 30th in rush yards in 2010 and still need some quality help.
Thomas makes allot of sense considering his north and south power running style suits the type of football the Redskins like to play and paired with Torain could form a rather productive tandem in the back field.
Washington has to find a way to establish a true ground game, especially in the NFC East, considering if the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants don’t respect your run game will pin their ears back and blitz the quarterback non-stop, just ask Donovan McNabb.