Thursday, April 3, 2014
Falcons make play for Saints' Rafael Bush
By Mike Triplett
The Atlanta Falcons are hoping to fill one of their biggest needs -- and to dent their longtime rivals, the New Orleans Saints, in the process.
Atlanta signed restricted free agent safety Rafael Bush to an offer sheet, meaning the Saints have until Tuesday to match the offer or lose Bush with no draft-pick compensation.
Terms of the Falcons' offer have not been disclosed. The Saints previously offered Bush a one-year deal at the lowest qualifying offer of $1.431 million. The Saints have given no indication yet whether or not they plan to match Atlanta's offer.
The reason the Saints would receive no draft-pick compensation is because Bush originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2010 -- with none other than the Falcons in 2010. Bush then spent a year with the Denver Broncos before finding a home as a part-time starter and special teams standout with the Saints over the past two years.
Bush had 42 tackles and five pass defenses last year as a part-time starter for the Saints, who often featured three safeties together in their nickel and dime packages. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder has also been a standout in special teams coverage for New Orleans for the past two years.
Both teams could really use Bush, since they're both very thin at the safety position.
The Saints have two excellent starters in newly-signed free agent Jairus Byrd and second-year pro Kenny Vaccaro. They also recently signed Canadian Football League transplant Marcus Ball. But those are the only three safeties on the Saints' current roster.
The Saints recently brought in veteran cornerback Champ Bailey for a visit. It's possible that Bailey could be used as a pseudo-safety in nickel and dime packages if the Saints decide to add him.
Atlanta, meanwhile, has an even bigger need at safety after releasing longtime starting free safety Thomas DeCoud last month. They have a standout starter in strong safety William Moore. But the next two safeties on the Falcons' depth chart are unproven seventh-round picks from last year -- Zeke Motta and Kemal Ishmael.
Motta, who replaced DeCoud for a game last season, is coming off of surgery for a cervical fracture.
The Falcons released DeCoud in part because of his $4.8 million salary-cap cost and in part because they didn't feel he was a physical enough tackler and didn't make enough plays on the ball.
Bush, who was primarily used as a deep safety for the Saints, does bring some physicality to the position.
Moore and Bush are friends, and he previously said that he had talked with Bush about the possibility of joining the Falcons.
Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure contributed to this report.