Free agent spotlight: C Jonathan Goodwin


The New Orleans Saints have eight remaining players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 10, plus three restricted free agents. Here’s a breakdown on center Jonathan Goodwin:

Age: 36

Experience: Heading into 14th season

Height: 6-3

Weight: 318

Outlook: The Saints demonstrated last season how much they still valued "Goody," even though he’s now past his prime years. He won the starting center job after re-signing as a free agent in June. Then he hung onto that job all season, even as injuries mounted and his production declined.

So like I said with free agent receiver Robert Meachem, I can’t write off the idea that the Saints bring back Goodwin for one more go-round.

However, I think it’s more likely that the Saints move on -- whether they elect to promote third-year backup Tim Lelito into the starting job or look for an upgrade in free agency or the draft.

Saints coach Sean Payton listed the interior line position as the team’s No. 2 "must" for this offseason -- though it’s unclear if he meant an immediate change to the starting lineup or getting younger for the future, or both. Veteran guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs could also potentially be replaced this offseason.

Goodwin, who first played for the Saints from 2006-2010, peaked as a Pro Bowler during New Orleans’ 2009 Super Bowl season. He left for a more lucrative offer with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011 and became their starter for three years. Though he’s been more solid than spectacular in recent years, he has remained a trusted starter for one of the NFL’s best passing offenses (New Orleans) and one of the NFL’s best rushing offenses (San Francisco).

Goodwin said he felt better than ever in training camp, and he was part of New Orleans’ resurgent run game early last season. But injuries started to take a toll as he battled a series of nagging knee, ankle, neck, and elbow ailments. Goodwin allowed somewhere between 3-5 sacks, depending on the statistical service. And he was part of an offensive line that was far too inconsistent during the second half of the season, with some ugly performances in home losses to Baltimore, Carolina, and Atlanta down the stretch.