Today is the last day of the free agent signing period when teams can make offers to restricted free agents in hopes of keeping them with their teams. It is also the day before any unrestricted free agents can claim free agency totally and get away scott free.
So far we’ve seen the Saints give offers to 13 of their 18 RFAs in hopes of no team signing them away. If they do then at least the Saints will get something in return.
We’ve also heard plenty of talk about how the team did not put the franchise tag on safety Darren Sharper who had a stellar season in 2009. The Saints didn’t use the tag on any player and seemingly are going to allow Sharper to test the free agent market.
Recently there has even been a lot of talk about Charles Grant and the man is neither an RFA or UFA, but just not worth his current contract.
But what about the other UFA starter? What about the guy that has been a stable backbone of a defense that went from cellar-dwellers to Super Bowl champs? How could we forget about Scott Fujita?
Fujita came to the team in 2006 which is the same year that Drew Brees and Coach Sean Payton arrived in town. He has been a tremendous force at outside linebacker and one of the guys that has been with this team since the rebirth after Hurricane Katrina. He is obviously a loved force on both the team in the city of New Orleans itself. You can’t go to a game and see him make a play without almost everyone doing his traditional Japanese fight-style pose. Yet no-one seems to be saying a word about Fujita and the fact that come tomorrow? He could end up walking away from the black and gold.
As an unrestricted free agent, Fujita is just one of two starters that could leave the team and sign elsewhere without teams having to worry about giving the Saints some sort of compensation like a draft pick for them. Give Fujita a contract he likes and thinks he is worth and he can sign his name on the dotted line and show his fleur-de-lis adorned helmet the door.
Fujita has been able to play relatively injury-free throughout his time with the Saints except last season when he missed a total of five games, but other than that he’s been great. His numbers have stayed consistent and he’s only going to be 31 years old when the season starts. It’s a well-known fact that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likes aggressiveness and youth on his defensive squad, but I’m not so sure that it’s time to give up on Fujita just yet.
Scott Fujita’s Career Saints’ Statistics
Sure his sacks have never been overly high, but look at those tackling numbers. Those are fantastic and it is obvious at all times that he is all over the field. He has a great rapport with the general of the linebacking corp in Jonathan Vilma showing that the two work great together. The other outside linebacker is Scott Shanle and from what I understand, he’s got a hefty contract he’s in the middle of right now. Shanle will turn 31 during the season and in my opinion, just hasn’t been the type of playmaking force that Fujita is.
We all remember the recovered Favre/Peterson fumble in the NFC Championship Game right before halftime right? Fujita!
With such tight restrictions on signing free agents this offseason thanks to our Super Bowl victory; the Saints can’t really just say they’ll sit back and wait for March 5 because they can’t really do much from the start. If a good linebacker is cut and clears waivers then he could be welcomed into camp of course. Joey Porter is out there right now, but he’s two years older and I think Fujita is just as promising if not more.
The Saints could wait until the NFL Draft and see if a good outside linebacker drops to them at pick number 32 like Sean Weatherspoon out of Missouri, but that’s doubtful. I’m expecting him to be picked in the early twenties somewhere and the Saints need more help on the interior defensive line anyway.
We also can’t forget that the Saints do have a number of talented young kids at linebacker which could jump into the fray. Marvin Mitchell, second-year linebacker Jonathan Casillas, and the somewhat forgotten about Stanley Arnoux who missed all of his rookie season last year after being injured in training camp. Maybe that is what the Saints plan on doing and hope that one, two, or all three of those young players can step it up.
Something needs to be done and immediately or Fujita is going to walk out of New Orleans tomorrow and sign elsewhere. The Saints will be left without an outside linebacker for the time being and we may be left guessing until the draft or even worse…training camp. God, that seems so far away doesn’t it?
Scott Fujita is an excellent linebacker that deserves a decent enough contract, but not one that will blow people’s socks off. I think he may test the market for a few days and then possibly come back to the Saints and see what they are willing to give up. A 2-3 year contract worth about $3-4 million a year would be well worth it for a man that was looking to retire a Saints one day. Him sticking around and busting heads while also training the younger guys wouldn’t be too shabby a gig.
My personal hope is that he returns next year, but I’m not entirely sure my wish will be granted.
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