It's official, Jermon Bushrod has left the Saints and hit a huge payday in the process. He'll re-join Aaron Kromer who's the offensive coordinator for the Bears and man the left tackle position for them which has largely been a black hole for years. This is a huge blow for the Saints, but Bushrod was never close to being worth $7 million a year. Not to the Saints, or anybody. The Bears grossly overpaid for what I consider to be a good but not great offensive lineman. 5 years for $36 million is not something the Saints were realistically ever going to match. This is less of a huge blow because the Saints are losing an elite player, and more of a huge blow because the Saints are losing a solid player with no one to really replace him. The question immediately becomes: who will be the Saints left tackle in 2013? It's an important question because it's ultimately directly tied to Drew Brees' long term health, and that's the most important investment the franchise has made.
The options as I see them are threefold:
1. Count on someone already on the roster.
This would mean the Saints believe Charles Brown can be their left tackle of the future. Personally, I would find that conclusion by the front office extremely unsettling. Brown has been a disaster on the field at times, decent at others, but in limited playing time he has been mostly consistent at getting injured. Brown seems like the only guy on the roster that even has an outside shot at being the starting left tackle on opening day, mostly due to his high draft status. Otherwise don't completely rule out Marcel Jones who was a rookie on IR last season.
2. Draft a left tackle.
This seems like the most likely scenario to me, and honestly it could come as early as the 15th pick. I know that's not what most fans want to hear that are clamoring for defense, defense, defense. But at this point we have to be real that it's a likely scenario. The draft is loaded with tackle talent and at 15 the Saints can find a guy that would possibly be a lateral move from Bushrod from day one. Lane Johnson from Oklahoma is a possibility, as is D. J. Fluker of Alabama. If the Saints go through free agency and their first round pick without a left tackle, then I'll grow extremely worried.
3. Grab a tackle in free agency.
Sam Baker of the Falcons is expected to re-sign with the Falcons very soon, and he can probably thank Bushrod for landing him a huge deal. Jake Long is probably not going to make financial sense either. Bryant McKinnie of the Ravens is 33 years old and will probably want more than the Saints want to pay him, but he's a possibility as well. Honestly there's not much else worthwhile out there. Ryan Harris of the Texans is also an intriguing possibility, though he may best be suited for the right tackle spot.
Who do you see as the Saints' starting left tackle on opening day in 2013?