New Orleans Saints: The True Value of Reggie Bush Is Greater Than Many Think

Cian Fahey@CianafFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2011

NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 21:  Reggie Bush #25 of the New Orleans Saints jumps over Brice McCain #21 of the Houston Texans at the Louisiana Superdome on August 21, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The drafting of Mark Ingram may have brought an end to the tenure of former second overall pick Reggie Bush in New Orleans.

Bush—in most people's eyes—has been a major bust for the Saints since being drafted second overall in 2005. He has never gone over 600 yards rushing in an NFL season and has only started at least 10 games in a single season once. Statistically, there is very little to back up the argument that Reggie Bush is a valuable commodity for NFL offenses.

However, the former USC (or is that still legitimate?) running-back is going to be a highly sought after player should he be placed on the trade block by the Saints.

Realistically it should be a simple situation—the Saints have Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas heading into next season as running backs. Logic tells you that Reggie Bush will find a tough time getting on the field. That logic, however, is based on Reggie Bush being a running-back.

Defining Reggie Bush as a football player is difficult. It is that very difficulty that makes him a very valuable football player. You cannot simply state that he is a typical running back, nor can you call him a wide receiver.

Bush may have entered the league as a running-back, but has never been an every-down back as a professional. Matt Williamson of ESPN's Scouts Inc had the following to say about Bush:

"There are a few players in this league who are just very difficult to label. For Bush, is he a WR or RB? Whateve[r] the D[efense] labels him, Brees/Payton will do the opposite. N[ew] Orl[ean]s is one of the best teams around to take advantage of such a weapon. Bush is great for them and they are great for him."

Bush plays a complex role for the Saints. His value is in his ability to beat matchups.  His versatility and unique skill set as a threat both in the backfield and split out wide makes the opposing defensive co ordinators task of containing the whole offense very difficult.

Bush does not have the stats to say that he is a great player in the league. That's because he isn't a great player, but he is a very good offensive weapon that could completely change the identity of his new offense.

Bush's ability as a receiver is a huge asset when combined with his ability to run with the ball. It is what makes him so difficult for defensive co ordinators to figure out. If a team comes out in it's base defense—whether it be a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme—Bush forces the defense to match up a linebacker with either he or a wide receiver.

If the defense stays in that base set then Bush can be deployed as a receiver. If the team brings in an extra cornerback then Bush can stay in the backfield and be used as a running back. While there are other running backs that are good receivers throughout the league, such as LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice, none can be as effective a receiver as Bush can.

Being a part of one of the most talented offenses in the league—the offense as a whole has been ranked first overall in yards in three of Bush's five seasons with the team and ranked first in points twice—Bush doesn't get that many touches.

For his career he has averaged 4.9 receptions per game and 8.7 rushing attempts. His rushing attempts have been significantly lower in recent times, however, as he registered 13.1 attempts in 2007 and 10.6 in 2008.

For any teams looking to acquire Bush he is still only 26 years old with a little more than 800 touches in his career. He may be prone to injury—he hasn't been active for 16 games in one season since his rookie year—but playing his role doesn't force him into a large workload.

Bush makes the players around him better by giving them better matchups or by taking advantage of his own matchup. He is by no means a complete back but he is a versatile weapon who is still only 26 years of age. Bush is startlingly young and could easily improve in the future. Since he hasn't taken the beating that most backs take, he should be able to play in the league for another five to eight years.

Bush won't be considered by teams that are in the market for a feature running back but very few teams look for that type of player anymore. Running back has become a position that is manned by committee more than just one player. Bush would give whatever team wants him the perfect third down back as well as an additional receiver. This is without even considering his punt return skills, which have been electric.

Then again maybe the Saints keep him. Should they do so, expect Bush to see more time split out as a receiver. With the potential loss of Lance Moore in free agency and the addition of Ingram, Bush could even become a full time receiver.

Reggie Bush may not be worth what he is scheduled to earn in the final year of his rookie contract, but his value to the Saints—even as trade bait—is undeniably high.

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