Changing faces: New Orleans Saints

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

If you're putting together a list of the best players in the history of the New Orleans Saints, running back Deuce McAllister has to be very much in the conversation.

If you're putting together the Saints' roster for 2009, McAllister's probably not on it. As painful as that might be for New Orleans fans, it became obvious last year that McAllister's time was winding down. Coach Sean Payton was conservative with McAllister's playing time early last season as the veteran returned from his second major knee surgery.

But even after McAllister showed he was reasonably healthy and the Saints had other injuries at running back, things didn't change much. It's obvious the Saints are headed in another direction on offense and they'll probably part with McAllister and his big salary-cap figure before the start of free agency.

Maybe McAllister will make it easy on the Saints and retire. Or maybe he'll want to prove he has something left and go somewhere else. But it won't be in New Orleans. Pierre Thomas has established himself as a pretty solid runner and the Saints still are trying to figure out how to use Reggie Bush for maximum impact.

There's no doubt the Saints need to run the ball more consistently than they did last season and they may look for help in free agency and the draft. But it's clear that McAllister isn't in the plans. If he was, the Saints would have given him the ball a lot more last year when they were fighting for a playoff spot.