Los Angeles Clippers Owner Donald Sterling was smacked by a lifetime ban from NBA commissioner Adam Silver following his now infamous racial comments made public by TMZ. Silver acted swiftly and fairly in dolling out the punishment for Sterling. Silver also fined the Clippers owner $2.5 million dollars. Not even close to big money for a man of Sterling’s wealth.
I applaud the commissioner for acting decisively and appropriately. There is no room from Sterling in the NBA; sports are supposed to be the great bridge in the racial gap. All races should be unified through sports if they can’t find a common bond in any other place. Sterling’s comments were disgusting and despicable, he got what he deserved, and some could argue he didn’t get enough.
The NBA owners are now on the clock. Legally, the commissioner can’t force Sterling to sell the Clippers, but three-quarters of the owners in agreement can. I would suspect Sterling is nearing the end of the line as the Clippers owner. NBA owners don’t want to be linked to a man that didn't want black people at "his games".
Maybe Sterling can find another place to soil, but I’m glad to see him out of the NBA. If it weren’t for the black athletes that he insulted, he wouldn’t be in the position to make several hundred million dollars he stands to make from an eventual sale of the Clippers after buying the team 30 years ago for a cool $12 million dollars.
The Saints had a fifth-year option on Mark Ingram’s contract that the team will reportedly not pick up. Ingram was drafted in the first round back in 2011, and under the collective bargaining agreement, teams have the option to exercise the fifth season with of course a pay bump.
The extension would have put Ingram in a Saints uniform through 2015, now he’s set to become a free agent at the end of the 2014 campaign. New Orleans did, however, pick up the fifth year option on defensive end Cameron Jordan who was drafted with Ingram in the first round in 2011. Cameron’s excellent production and Ingram’s lack thereof proved the deciding factor.
Ingram has been plagued by injuries and inconsistent play since arriving in New Orleans. The Saints traded back into round one to draft him three years ago. Ingram finished the 2013 season strong in the play offs, but had a costly fumble in the Saints divisional playoff loss to Seattle. The Saints made the right decision to not pick up the option on Ingram, considering the production. In 2013, Ingram rushed for 386 yards and 1 touchdown a season ago. Those statistics are hardly worthy of an extension or raise.
The Saints announced today that they've re-signed wide receiver Robert Meachem on a 1 year deal.
Meachem rejoined the Saints last season after spending 2012 with the San Diego Chargers. Meachem played in 15 games in 2013 for New Orleans and caught 16 passes for 324 yards and 2 touchdowns.
He's not the deep threat he was a few years ago, but for the money and familiarity, the Saints made solid decision to bring him back. He likely costs the veteran minimum, (under $1 million) and is no lock to make the Saints final roster this fall.
I expect the Saints to continue to target the wide receiver position in the early rounds of the 2014 NFL draft in May.
Veteran center Jonathan Goodwin is making a free-agency visit with the Saints this week after spending three years in San Francisco. Black & Gold fans will remember that Goodwin was starting center for the Super Bowl-winning 2009 squad.
Of course, the Saints already have an heir apparent at center in Tim Lelito. Goodwin's presence on the team would likely provide some additional incentive for Lelito to perform and also act as a mentor.
The entire Saints coaching staff descended upon Baton Rouge for LSU Pro Day, including Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis (who, by the way, I’m convinced has Secret Service and CIA-level technology to get in touch with agents and the who’s who in the NFL.) Loomis and company cleared more cap space this week by restructuring DT Broderick Bunkley’s contract and saved $2.5 million dollars. The Saints have over $4 million dollars of room with which to work, not including the recently inked deals for safety Rafael Bush and cornerback Champ Bailey.
The big question remaining for Loomis and company is the looming long term contract with tight end Jimmy Graham. “That’s a two way street, I think all of us would like to have things done sooner rather than later.” said Loomis. He offered no possible time table as to when a deal might be had between the Saints and Graham’s camp. “We’ll keep at it in the process. Obviously we want Jimmy Graham on our team when training camp begins. We’ll keep plugging away at the process” he continued.
I talked to Coach Sean Payton about a number of things at LSU Pro Day, and Payton told me they have a clear vision for Champ Bailey. “I think he brings a great deal of leadership, his instincts, and we believe in his skill set and the way he takes care of himself,” Payton said. “He’s gonna come in and compete and play at corner.” When you look at the money the Saints spent on Champ Bailey it makes even more sense. Bailey will count $1.5 million dollars against the salary cap in 2014. He was given a $500,000 dollar signing bonus. That is smart money!
Listen to my interview with Sean Payton here:
The Saints lost free agent center Brian de la Puente to the Chicago Bears this week and Tim Lelito appears to be the next man up on the roster, at least for the time being. “We’ll pay attention to this Draft, but we’ll continue to pay attention to any way we can improve our roster. We see Tim as someone that has that potential. There will be competition at that position.” Payton said. With the Saints up tight against the cap, I would expect to them to target a veteran in free agency after June 1st. Let’s see what they do in the Draft, and who gets released from other teams. Obviously, with Payton’s comments, it doesn't appear as though the Saints are ready to just hand the job to Lelito. Lelito started two games last season at guard for Jahri Evans and played well. Lelito landed with New Orleans after going undrafted in 2013 out of Grand Valley State.
The Saints will have a new center in 2014. The Chicago Bears have signed former Saints center Brian de la Puente to a 1 year deal according to the team’s website. Brian de la Puente took over the Saints full time starter in 2011. The terms of the contract were not disclosed by Chicago. The Saints have shown a history of not re-signing free agent centers; Jeff Faine Left in free agency in 2008, Jonathan Goodwin in 2011 and now de la Puente in 2014.
The next man up appears to be two-year veteran Tim Lelito. Lelito made the Saints as an undrafted rookie free agent last season out of Grand Valley State. He played the “swing" offensive lineman role as back up at guard and center last season. The Saints might grab a veteran center on the open market, but it appears as though Lelito will get the first crack at the job.
Former Saints Center Jonathan Goodwin is currently a free agent, and he could be an option for New Orleans.
The Atlanta Falcons signed Saints restricted free agent safety Rafael Bush to an offer sheet earlier this week. The deal is 2 years, worth up to $4.5 million dollars per a source I spoke to.
New Orleans has been busy in the last few days, signing safety Marcus Ball and cornerback Champ Bailey. Ironically Bush's career started in Atlanta as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2010. The Saints have until April 8th to match the offer from Atlanta. If the Saints choose not to match the offer, the team would not be entitled to any compensation for losing Bush.
Now that we know the numbers the Saints are working with, what should they do? Match the offer, or let Bush go to the dirty birds? Bush's replacement might have already been signed earlier in the week, not to mention the face the Saints can get a player that fills his role in the Draft in May.
The Saints continue to kick the tires on free agents, most notably defensive back Champ Bailey. NFL Analyst Mike Detillier told me “He’ll go down as one of the greatest cornerbacks of all time. The problem is, you're getting the 36 year old Champ. What do you want him for?”
What do the Saints want him for? Bailey is an experienced 15 year veteran who’s sure to be Pro Football Hall of Famer when he hangs up the cleats. The Saints could use Bailey to add some experience to a very young secondary as a niche player for Rob Ryan's defense. “You’re not bringing him to be a starter, you’re bringing him into be that nickel cornerback,” explains Detillier.
Bailey played in five games last season with the Denver Broncos, hampered by an ankle injury. “He still has some gas left in the tank, I just think at 36, you’re asking a lot for him to hold up 16 games as a starter,” Detillier says. If the Saints were to ink Bailey, he could come relatively cheap. New Orleans has $2.2 million dollars under the 2014 salary cap. Bailey’s veteran minimum contract would be $985,000 on a 1 year deal. That’s more than affordable.
I wouldn’t hold my breath on the Saints signing Bailey before the NFL Draft in May. It sounds like the Saints are doing their homework on some veteran insurance if they miss out on a prospect or two in the draft. One of the more obvious needs for the Black and Gold is at cornerback. Right now, Keenan Lewis is the starter on one side with Patrick Robinson and Corey White as the two players with the most experience opposite of Lewis.
Its unknown right now if a deal is being worked about, but the Saints don't usually bring players in for a visit unless they intend on working out a deal with them.
Also, the Saints have agreed to terms on 1-year deal with with of their own free agents, linebacker Parys Haralson. Haralson came to the Saints in training camp last year after a trade with the San Francisco 49ers.