A day after the Saints robbed the 49ers one of their own desired defensive tackle tackles, the 49ers have returned the favor, signing away starting center Jonathan Goodwin to a new three year, $10.9 million deal with $4 million guaranteed.
The Saints yesterday signed DT Aubrayo Franklin to a one-year contract, robbing the 49er defense of a run-stuffer inside. Gregg Williams mocked that 49er MLB Patrick Willis was "crying in his milk" because the Saints had signed Franklin away.
The 49ers dealt a more blow of their own, its severity unknown yet. Goodwin, 32, has been the Saints' starting center through the most prolific scoring stretch and most successful run in team history. Emerging as a starter in 2008 after the departure of Jeff Faine via free agency, the Saints have gone 35-16 in regular season and playoff games Goodwin started.
Goodwin's rise to the starting job was an improbable one with little warning that he'd be so steady and solid as the team's snapper. A sub for three years before finally cracking in to the starting lineup for the Jets in 2005, he was not retained via free agency.
The Saints won a bidding war with Washington for Goodwin's services, but then used him as an backup only, starting no games in 2006 and two games in the middle of 2007 when Faine was hurt. At the age of 29 in 2008, Goodwin had earned Brees' trust and re-signed with the Saints in order to finally get a crack at starting job.
Goodwin held it for three seasons, center of the best line in the league during Brees' record-setting 2008 season, Super Bowl XLIV, and last season. He was named to his only Pro Bowl after the 2009 season.
The severity of the 49er's move will be measured on the shoulders of second year center Matt Tennant, drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 draft with the idea that he'd eventually replace Goodwin. But so soon? Tennant didn't start last year, but did see action on special teams.
Tennant, a product of a pro-style offense at Boston College, has been practicing with the starters so far in camp. The Saints likely already know whether or not he is the man to assume the full time job in front of Drew Brees, but it helps that he'll be flanked on either side by Pro Bowl quality offensive guards in Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans, two of the best in the league.
Tennant snapped for Falcons QB Matt Ryan in college, and is considered to have high football intelligence who was coached up at BC.
Talk so far around training camp has centered on if Tennant is ready for the job, with the hope that Goodwin would return for at least one more season.
The free agent centers on the market include long-term Bear Olin Kreutz, who has already turned down a one-year, $4 million contract from Chicago and remains on the market. Other free agent centers on the market include former 49er Eric Heittman, and former LSU and Chief Rudy Niswanger.
Tennant is due $405,000 this season, with a cap hit of just under $450k.