Jonathan Goodwin Gives Saints the Last Piece of Offensive Puzzle for 2014

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterJune 3, 2014

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) takes the snap from center Jonathan Goodwin (59) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

As early as Tuesday, the New Orleans Saints could finalize a deal that will bring center Jonathan Goodwin back to the team where he started from 2008 to 2010. According to sources cultivated by Mike Triplett of ESPN.com, Goodwin and the Saints have an agreement in place, and they just need to iron out the specifics.

With Terron Armstead and Zach Strief at the tackle positions, and Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs manning the guard spots along the offensive line, the only position without a starter returning from 2013 is center. The Saints are very high on second-year pro Tim Lelito, but he’s only played in seven games in the NFL, and only started two—both at right guard.

Lelito and Goodwin will compete between now and Week 1 of the regular season to see who the Saints believe can offer the best chance to win. Will upside trump experience, or will the next New Orleans center be an old fixture?

2014 Saints: Experience along the OL
Player2013 Snaps2013 StartsCareer Starts
Ben Grubbs1,15416102
Zach Strief1,0621545
Jahri Evans99914126
Bryce Harris24612
Tim Lelito16222
Terron Armstead14122
Jonathan Goodwin1,00116108
Pro Football Focus/Pro Football Reference

Lelito got his first taste of the NFL against the Arizona Cardinals last season, during a Week 3 debacle, where he allowed three sacks and five quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He didn’t appear ready in that game and didn’t start again until Week 12 against the Atlanta Falcons. He allowed a sack in that game, too, and was a reserve for the rest of the season.

Goodwin played 1,001 regular-season snaps at center last season for the San Francisco 49ers, only missing 21 of the team’s offensive plays. He was also on the field for every snap of the 49ers’ three playoff games. Goodwin allowed four sacks, one quarterback hit and 14 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus, and he was ranked seventh among centers last season as a run-blocker.

Whoever wins the job at center, be it Goodwin or Lelito, the Saints are better off after the addition of Goodwin. If New Orleans moves forward with the young Lelito, an experienced Goodwin is waiting to take over if needed. Should the Saints use Goodwin, Lelito can still learn and grow as a backup.

The Saints now seem settled along the offensive line, which was the final position group with a question mark prior to Monday’s news.

At quarterback, Drew Brees is still an elite option with a few more 5,000-yard seasons left to give. Marques Colston, Kenny Stills and rookie Brandin Cooks are locked in as the three starting receivers for the Saints, while Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson are ready to roll as a trio at running back.

There are a few backup positions still to be determined. But other than those, and a still somewhat uncertain situation at tight end, the New Orleans offense is locked in.

Tight end Jimmy Graham is still missing from offseason workouts because of a grievance he filed challenging whether he should be considered a tight end or a wide receiver for franchise-tag purposes. According to Will Brinson of CBSSports.com, Brees went on The Boomer and Carton Show and displayed a certainty that Graham’s dispute with the league would be over soon.

I'm confident everything will get worked out with Jimmy at some point, hopefully sooner than later. It would be nice to have him in and have some time with him. But I also know how this goes. I kind of went through this two years ago. My advice to Jimmy is just hang in there, don't take it personal and stay in good shape and get ready to roll when you do get here. I'm excited about OTAs right now and seeing these young guys come together and how they can incorporate in our offense.

Brees mentioned his contract dispute (albeit his was with the Saints instead of the league, like Graham’s) in comparison to Graham’s. While not the same circumstances, it goes toward showing the Saints aren’t new to star players holding out of camp to get what they want. A deal always seems to get done, and the situation with Graham has the same cloud of optimism surrounding it.

As soon as Graham signs his deal and joins the team, New Orleans will be ready to start piling on points once the season begins. His deal is as much a foregone conclusion as was the certainty, for some time, that the Saints would go out and sign Goodwin.

Neither were well-guarded secrets but both necessary for the Saints.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.