NFC South: George Foster

Saints put two RBs on injured reserve

September, 2, 2011
It looks like running back Joique Bell, who has been one of the stars of the preseason for the New Orleans Saints, will make the 53-man roster.

That’s not definite yet, but Bell’s chances increased considerably Friday night as the Saints made some roster moves at running back. They placed Chris Ivory and Patrick Cobbs on injured reserve.

That leaves Bell with a chance to be a backup and special-teams player in a backfield that also includes Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles.

Wide receiver Joe Morgan, another preseason star, was placed on injured reserve along with safety Paul Oliver. Defensive end Greg Romeus was placed on the non-football injured list.

The Saints terminated the contracts of tackle Jordan Black, safety Quincy Butler, tackle George Foster, tight end Tory Humphrey, cornerback Trumaine McBride, safety Pierson Prioleau, safety Chris Reis and fullback Chris Taylor.

The Saints also placed receiver Montez Billings, defensive tackle Dexter Larimore, tight end Tyler Lorenzen and linebacker Dwight Roberson on waivers.
All four NFC South general managers have been doing some very astute salary-cap maneuvering when it comes to the veteran minimum salary benefit -- even Tampa Bay’s Mark Dominik, who seems to think the word “veteran’’ applies to anyone who has reached his 22nd birthday.

The minimum-salary benefit is designed to give teams that sign veterans a salary-cap break. It can be used on any player with four or more accrued seasons, who signs for the minimum base salary, which varies depending on the number of years the player has in the league. As a general rule, the cap hit for those players is $525,000, even though the player might actually earn far more in base salary. The cap hit can also escalate a bit if there is a signing bonuses involved in the deal.

Let’s use New Orleans safety Pierson Prioleau, a 12-year veteran to demonstrate because he the highest-possible minimum base salary. Prioleau is scheduled to earn $910,000 in base salary. He also got a $50,000 signing bonus. Under normal circumstances, Prioleau would count $960,000 million against the salary cap. But the benefit drops his cap figure to just $575,000.

The Saints also used the veteran minimum benefit on offensive lineman Jordan Black, linebacker Clint Ingram, safety Chris Reis, receiver Courtney Roby, cornerback Leigh Torrence, running back Patrick Cobbs, tackle George Foster and tackle Alex Barron. In the case of Barron, general manager Mickey Loomis did a very nice job of guarding his team against the cap. Barron’s deal, which was for $685,000, was structured with a split salary, meaning his salary and cap hit drop dramatically if he’s placed on injured reserved or waived while injured.

Barron currently is on the injured-reserve list and his cap figure has dropped to $228,000. It could be lowered even more if the Saints release Barron with an injury settlement.

Carolina general manager Marty Hurney was almost as active as Loomis with the benefit. He used it on six players – safety Sean Considine, quarterback Derek Anderson, linebacker Omar Gaither, receiver Legedu Naanee, cornerback E.J. Wilson and cornerback Cletis Gordon.

Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff used it twice and got some big savings because both of his veterans have a lot of years under their belts. Tight end Reggie Kelly and linebacker Mike Peterson each got $910,000 base salaries with $50,000 signing bonuses. Kelly and Peterson each are counting only $575,000 against the cap.

Tampa Bay, which is poised to have the league’s youngest opening-day roster, used the benefit on only one player. That’s defensive tackle John McCargo. His base salary is $685,000 with no signing bonus, so his cap figure is $525,000. The Bucs also protected themselves against injury to McCargo. His deal also includes a split salary, which would pay him only $353,000 if he is injured.
In recent years, the New Orleans Saints have become a haven for players who have had their careers stall elsewhere. Bringing in guys like Jonathan Vilma and Anthony Hargrove worked quite nicely.

Maybe that’s why the Saints went out and added a couple of offensive tackles, who, once upon a time, were first-round draft picks. The Saints have brought in Alex Barron and George Foster.

Barron was the 19th overall pick by St. Louis in 2005. With the Rams, Barron became notorious for false-start and holding penalties. He was traded to Dallas last year, but that didn’t do much to revive his career.

Foster was the 20th overall pick by Denver in 2003. He went to the Detroit Lions in 2007 and lasted their through 2008. In 2009, he went through training camp with Cleveland, but didn’t make the regular-season roster. Most recently, he was with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League.

“We want to take a peek at these guys and see how they do while they are here,’’ coach Sean Payton told the media. “Both of these guys are veteran players that we think can compete and compete for a job and that’s why they are here.’’

The Saints aren’t in horrible shape at either tackle position, but they also aren’t loaded. Jermon Bushrod has been the starting left tackle the past two seasons, but has been far from dominant. The Saints drafted Charles Brown last season, but he might not be ready for significant playing time.

Right tackle Jon Stinchcomb made the Pro Bowl in the 2009 season, but played with an injured quad muscle last season and struggled at times. There are no guarantees Foster or Barron will make the roster. But one or both could stick around and provide depth.

Then, there’s the long-shot scenario that one, or both, ends up starting. It’s a very long shot. But, like I said at the top, the Saints have had some luck in the past with reclamation projects.