So far, retirement has been good to Zach Strief. The longtime New Orleans Saints right tackle and well-known good guy has put his energies into building the brand for his New Orleans-area brewery, jumping onto guest spots with WWL Radio, and engaging fans more actively on Twitter. Strief, when prompted to name which Saints offensive lineman fans don’t know about but will soon, chose Cameron Tom.
Tom was an interesting undrafted rookie last summer. The center graduated from the Southern Miss Golden Eagles as the team leader in consecutive starts (47) and received first-team All-Conference USA honors as a junior and senior. He put on a great pro day in Hattiesburg, timing a 40-yard dash that would have been the 4th-best in Scouting Combine history for centers (4.89-seconds; given the common .08-second adjustment for pro day numbers, it would still have tied for 13th-best). His broad jump (116-inches), a measure of short-area quickness, would also have been the 4th-best performance.
As for his play, Tom looked like someone who was underweight for the pros and needed to bulk up. He weighed in at just 291-pounds at his pro day and was visibly lean:
Tom was listed at an even lighter weight for the Saints last year, tipping the scales at just 287-pounds. That showed up on his preseason reps as he was pushed around and bullied by NFL defensive linemen. With a year of NFL strength and conditioning - plus a professional dietary and nutrition program - under his belt, hopefully Tom is better-prepared for combat in the trenches.
He was something of a hot commodity last season; Washington attempted to poach Tom from the Saints, leading New Orleans to max out his pay as the league’s highest-paid practice squad member. Not rebuffed, Washington attempted to sign Tom onto their active roster but the Saints beat them to the punch, keeping Tom in New Orleans. They obviously saw much to like in the young center.
The Saints tried hard to keep Senio Kelemete in town, offering to match the Houston Texans’ contract offer, but the promise of a starting job was too much for the valuable sixth-man to pass up. LSU Tigers seventh-round draft pick Will Clapp is a contender for the backup spot to Max Unger, so Tom will have to earn his place on the roster. We don’t know yet what Strief has seen or heard to inspire confidence in Tom, but he’s a better judge of line play than almost anyone likely to read this. Here’s hoping he’s right.