The New Orleans Saints didn’t expect to lose their starting center in free agency to the San Francisco 49ers, but they did when Jonathan Goodwin chose to sign there after getting a significantly more lucrative contract to head to the bay area.
It was assumed once the Saints lost Goodwin that center/guard prospect Matt Tennant would inherit the starting role after being selected by New Orleans in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft.
But a situation presented itself to the Saints brass that they just couldn’t pass up.
Contract talks between six-time pro bowler Olin Kreutz and the Chicago Bears had fallen apart, and suddenly one of the better centers on the market became available.
Kreutz flew out to meet with the team, spent the day watching practice and taking a tour of the facility, and eventually signed a one-year contract to join the up for the 2011 season.
Now only six games in, Kreutz has decide to walk away from the Saints and from the NFL.
His reasons seems simple enough, as he puts it he is just “not feeling it” any longer and he would rather walk away then keep getting paid for half-hearted play.
Realistically as un-expected as his departure may be, the Saints shouldn’t miss a beat with or without him in the lineup.
Truth be told center/guard Brian De La Puente will become the teams next starter to the delight of fans everywhere.
De La Puente filled in for Kreutz, who missed two games with a knee injury, and it was noticeable to most that the offensive line played better with he then Kreutz as the starting center.
Pass blocking was better, run blocking was better, and with De La Puente leading the way the Saints rushed for a season high 177 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week four.
That doesn’t mean that the Saints won’t look into free agency for help, and bring in another center to compete or perhaps just to bolster depth.
There are some good centers still out there, including 34-year old free agent Shaun O’Hara, who made a Pro Bowl just last season before his release by the New York Giants this year.
Then again the Saints may take this opportunity to fill Kreutz roster spot with running back Chris Ivory, who is finally ready to come off the PUP list after recovering from a Lisfranc procedure on his left foot and sports hernia surgery during training camp.
New Orleans could use a boost to their running game as they are currently ranked 18th in the league after averaging only 108 yards per game this season.