The Saints are now without their left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who stepped into the starting role as a nobody in 2009, won a Super Bowl and a Pro Bowl invite, and left New Orleans four years later for a massive five year, $35.965 million contract with a whopping $17.715 million guaranteed.
Bushrod, a 2012 Pro Bowl starter, got prime dollars out of the free agent market - far more than the Saints were willing to pay. The Saints had to restructure eight of their own players to squeeze under the 2013 salary cap today at 3pm CDT.
At 28, Bushrod is in his prime and was ready for a major payday. Two years ago, Bushrod took a two-year contract averaging just under $5 million per year. Bushrod started every game since.
The Bears hired Aaron Kromer this offseason to be their offensive coordinator. Kromer was Bushrod's offensive line coach in New Orleans from 2009-2011 when Bushrod emerged from obscurity to Super Bowl XLIV starter. Bushrod has improved each year since he was just good enough - but shaky at times - in the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl run.
Meanwhile, the Saints were supposed to have been grooming 2010 second round pick Charles Brown to take over at left tackle. That may not have happened, as Brown has yet to contribute significantly because of health reasons. Brown missed his big opportunity last year when he suffered a season-ending knee injury while holding tenuously onto the starting right tackle job in the absence of injured starter Zach Strief.
Brown is entering his contract season and has every incentive to have the season of his life at left tackle, but the Saints can't have any faith he'd stay healthy as the full time starter.
Like Brown though, Bushrod stepped into the starting lineup after two seasons without contributing anything. Following the loss of starter Jammal Brown to hip and hernia injuries, in preseason Bushrod played well against then-Houston DE Mario Williams in an exhibition game in August 2009 and seized the job for good.
After Brown and Strief, the Saints have late round pick Marcel Jones and street free agent additions Bryce Harris and William Robinson on the roster.
UPDATE: Bushrod wrote on Twitter tonight, "Its been a bittersweet day for my family and I.. Excited about our new opportunity in Chicago but extremely sad about leaving new Orleans. I'm very appreciative of the support Ive gotten over the years from the #Whodatnation and I will never forget that as I move forward in life"