NEW ORLEANS — Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who has protected Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ blind side for the past four seasons, is ready to test free agency, his agent said Monday.
Agent Richard Rosa said there was no sign of a late-hour deal with New Orleans before NFL free-agency begins Tuesday afternoon.
“All parties understand he’s going to go ahead and test the market place,” Rosa said. “He’s comfortable with that. It should be a good market for him.”
Bushrod was drafted by New Orleans in 2007 out of Towson. He became a full-time starter in 2009, the season the Saints won their only Super Bowl. He was named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster the past two seasons.
“Jermon enjoyed his time in New Orleans,” Rosa said. “He’s played the position at a high level, made it to two Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl and blocked some of best defensive ends in the league.”
If Bushrod winds up signing elsewhere, New Orleans could move 2010 second-round draft choice Charles Brown into a starting role at left tackle.
Bushrod received his first Pro Bowl selection after playing for an offense that set numerous NFL records during the 2011 season, including total yards (7,474) as well as yards passing by a team (5,505) and a quarterback (5,476).
That season, the Saints’ offensive line gave up 24 sacks, second-fewest in the NFL.
Bushrod’s first deal ran out after the 2009 season, and he accepted the Saints’ restricted-free-agent tender in 2010 without a holdout. In 2011, he agreed to a two-year deal paying $9.8 million.
With the Saints trying to work within the confines of the NFL’s $123 million salary cap, giving the 6-feet-5, 315-pound Bushrod the type of salary he could command on the open market could prove difficult.
Bushrod is popular among his New Orleans teammates, and as last season came to an end, several, including Brees, said Bushrod would be missed if the Saints were unable to retain him.
“Jermon Bushrod has certainly cemented himself as one of the best left tackles in this league,” Brees said. “Obviously I want him back. I’d love to have him back. I understand how this business works and everything else, but we’ll wait and see how that all transpires — but, man, I really hope he’s back with us.”