Earlier this week, the New Orleans Saints reached out to safety Rafael Bush and outside linebacker Parys Haralson, in hopes of retaining the two free agents for 2014. Unlike Haralson, set to become an unrestricted free agent, Bush is a restricted free agent. And apparently not having reached a deal with the safety, the Saints have decided to tag him with a one-year RFA tender.
The $1.4 million tender was the lowest the Saints could use on Bush, and does not require another team to offer any compensation if they sign him away from New Orleans. It would have cost the Saints around $2.2 million to move up to the second-round compensation level. However, the lowest tender does give the Saints the opportunity to match any offer another team makes him. And Rob Ryan certainly wants to hold on to the underrated safety, who totaled 42 tackles playing roughly two-thirds of the snaps in 13 regular season games (6 starts) as a third safety (primarily a deep safety) in 2013. Once Bush signs the tender, he will provide another option at safety besides Kenny Vaccaro, who had an excellent rookie year in 2013. Malcolm Jenkins is also a free agent in 2014, and will likely test the market come March 11.
Rafael Bush is only one of four restricted free agents in New Orleans, but the team is unlikely to fork over the money required to tender fullback Jed Collins, wide receiver Joseph Morgan, or defensive lineman Tom Johnson. The Saints have also spoken with receiver Robert Meachem and offensive tackle Zach Strief, both of whom are set to become free agents on Tuesday, but no agreements have yet been reported with either.
The longer TE Jimmy Graham takes to close a deal on a new contract with the Saints, the more difficult it will be for GM Mickey Loomis to give Sean Payton a quality team with which to contend in the upcoming season. And Bush's $1.4 million tender has just eaten most of what little cap room the Saints had, until they renegotiate some contracts and/or release more veterans.