NFL Network national insider Ian Rapoport reported this afternoon that longtime New Orleans Saints right tackle Zach Strief is expected to call it a career:
#Saints OT Zach Strief, a long-time stalwart on their O-line, is expected to retire, I’m told, though he has not made his choice public. This was the expectation and makes their pick of first-rounder Ryan Ramczyk more important than it already was.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 28, 2018
Strief has been one of the longest-tenured Saints, drafted in Sean Payton’s first season way back in 2006 - a draft class including names like Reggie Bush, Roman Harper, Jahri Evans, and Marques Colston. Despite not getting picked until the 210th selection in the seventh round, Strief outlasted them all. But he did manage to help win Super Bowl XLIV with them.
He’s entered and exited the starting lineup whenever asked, spotlighting early in his career as a reserve backup but stepping up into one of the league’s best right tackles in his later years. Strief was known for his honest interviews and high character, embracing his role as a mentor for younger teammates like Ryan Ramczyk and Andrus Peat.
A second report from Joel Erickson of the Advocate supported Rapoport’s initial tweet, and offered some clarity on where Strief plans to go in life after football:
A year ago, Strief became part-owner of Port Orleans Brewery, and he became a father when his son, Rhey, was born in late January. If Strief has decided to walk away, he is leaving an offensive line that will strongly bear his imprint.
Let’s all hear it for Zach Strief. He’s been a model citizen during his time in New Orleans and by all accounts a great teammate. We should all hope he enjoys a comfortable retirement.
As for what this means for the Saints, it makes last year’s first round selection of Ryan Ramczyk seem even more prescient. Ramczyk stepped ably into the starting unit immediately during left tackle Terron Armstead’s rehab from shoulder surgery, then transitioned to right tackle when Strief went down with a bad knee injury. Ramczyk has the starting job on the right side locked down for the forseeable future, but look for the team to target a third tackle to back up both him and Armstead on the outside, especially if versatile sixth man Senio Kelemete leaves in free agency. Per Nick Underhill of the Advocate, Strief’s retirement would result in $2.775-million in salary cap savings for 2018.