Reggie Bush wasn't thrilled with the Saints' decision to draft running back Mark Ingram in the first round. We know this because he promptly tweeted as much. Most people figured that Ingram's arrival signaled the end of an underwhelming five years in New Orleans for Bush.
Turns out, the organization gave Bush permission to seek a trade two months before they drafted Ingram, according to a report by Yahoo.com's Jason Cole.
The New Orleans Saints gave running back Reggie Bush permission in February to talk to other teams and gauge his value as the franchise, and Bush tried to work out a restructured contract, according to three NFL sources.This explains why the Saints traded back into the first round of the draft to take Ingram. The organization knew it was going to need a running back and apparently wants one who is more comfortable running between the tackles.
Bush and agent Joel Segal were told that a number of teams would be interested in paying him handsomely, or at least more than the Saints have apparently been willing to offer at this point. That is one of the reasons that Bush has made contradictory statements about his future in New Orleans and didn’t participate in offseason workouts with Saints players. The expectation from Bush, according to the sources, is that he will be playing for another team next season.
(By the way, we're not saying New Orleans had to get a running back early in the draft because of Bush's likely departure, but we understand the thinking. We're still of the opinion that, in general, teams overpay for NFL backs.)
The next question, of course, is which teams might be interested in Bush. According to one of Coles' sources, "Among the most likely candidates for Bush’s services … are the Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and the New York Giants. Miami and Pittsburgh are looking to add speed on offense. Seattle is coached by Pete Carroll, Bush’s former coach at USC. The Giants’ interest would depend on whether the team is able to keep running back Ahmad Bradshaw once free agency starts."
Bush hasn't yet reached his potential as an NFL player, and it's part of the reason the Saints are willing to let him walk. That said, he would upgrade the backfield (and the passing games) of every team mentioned above. The biggest sticking point, obviously, is how much it will cost to sign him. The last time the Steelers paid (relatively) big money for a free-agent running back was in 2004 for Duce Staley. The Dolphins have Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, and they can't afford to allot a huge chunk of their salary cap to Bush.
The Carroll-USC connection makes sense, too, but he's not afraid to cut his former college players (with unintentionally hilarious side-effects). And like the Dolphins, the Seahawks have bigger issues than adding another running back.
Cole notes that "over the past two seasons, Bush, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2006 draft, has become a role player. He has missed 10 games because of injury and been limited to only 106 carries and 81 receptions in the regular season. He has scored a total of nine rushing and receiving touchdowns, but remains an explosive player."
According to Football Outsiders, Bush ranked 32nd in total value among NFL running backs with fewer than 100 carries last season. We'll mention it again in case you missed it the first time: there are better ways for teams to allocate their salary-cap dollars than busting the bank on a running back. They're just not worth it.
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