March 3, 2011

Runningback position solidified by Thomas' new contract

With Pierre Thomas back and the Saints counting on the healthy returns of Chris Ivory and Lynell Hamilton, will Reggie Bush be back?

We speculated in our recent mock draft that the Saints might consider a runningback early on because of uncertainty in their runningback class.

"There's a lot that will happen between then and now that will affect the runningback situation - especially the fates of Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, who may only be Saints until there is labor peace - so [Illinois RB Mikel] LeShoure wouldn't be a shock."

With the re-signing of Pierre Thomas before the CBA bell, the Saints have solidified the depth chart.

There are three runningbacks the Saints are very happy with on the roster, Thomas and two young heavy-loaders Chris Ivory and Lynell Hamilton.  Reggie Bush is also on the roster, though with the burden of a heavy contract number.

Though Thomas' new contract was extremely reasonable for a player of his caliber, and Ivory and Hamilton make the at or near the league minimum, the Saints may decide that Bush's situational excellence isn't worth money usually paid to superstars.

Thomas' deal is indicative of a history of injury, but also of the Saints' offense.  There is no room for a full-time workhorse in Payton's scheme, there never has been, and Thomas has always been a versatile back that was  part of a talented committee.  Heading into 2011, Thomas has no guarantee to start ahead of Chris Ivory.

Hamilton, if not for a training camp injury, might have started for the Saints in 2010, and we would have never heard of Chris Ivory.  Hamilton was certainly on his way to being the heaviest hammer in the runningback rotation.

All four runningbacks in the picture have a history of injury woes, one factor that could keep Bush on the roster.  The Saints finished the 2010 season with none of them, having to resort to Julius Jones and DeShawn Wynn in Seattle.

Thomas was among four runningbacks scheduled to hit free agency at the beginning of the next league year, which won't start until a new CBA is hammered out.  Thomas, Jones, Wynn and veteran Ladell Betts were without contracts before today.

Also still listed on the roster are Bush, Hamilton, Ivory, Joique Bell, and Chris Taylor.

Our latest mock draft had the Saints picking Penn State RB Evan Royster in the seventh round, a pick that would throw him into a crowded position.

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