Nick Underhill: Saints make smart move by locking up Terron Armstead now instead of later _lowres

New Orleans Saints tackle Terron Armstead (72) walks on the field in the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the New England Patriots in New Orleans, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

New Orleans isn’t a quiet place. It touts its greatest treasures, and people flock here to take part in the numerous festivities and culture.

Brass bands. Mardi Gras. The French Quarter. These things, by nature, are loud. And the food? Locals and visitors alike make sure to mention it whenever the city comes up. There isn’t much hovering beneath the radar. New Orleans often is the radar.

But somehow, for the past couple of years, one of the best left tackles in football has been developing into a force inside of the Superdome and the rest of the country has been reluctant to crown him. Terron Armstead’s teammates, coaches and anyone who has watched him play agree that he’s an All-Pro talent. The rest of the country has been slow to give him that title.

No Pro Bowls. No All-Pro teams. Just a guy who has no business packing so much athleticism into his 6-foot-5 frame making sure Drew Brees almost never has to worry about someone coming off the left edge and cracking him in the back.

The details are still to come out on the five-year extension a source told The Advocate Armstead signed Tuesday. Maybe he will be paid at a level commensurate with the other top left tackles in the league. But even if he is, it’s probably a good thing New Orleans locked up this deal now instead of after the season. At some point in the near future, there’s a good chance the rest of the league will wake up and realize Armstead is one of the guys setting the standard at his position.

The All-Pros, Pro Bowls and all the other accolades will then follow. And when that happens, the dollars will follow in bloated amounts. Better to buy now instead of later when his market and value will be even richer.

This might seem like a hype job, or that pressure is being put on Armstead to reach the next level with this extension. That isn’t the case. He’s already playing at that level.

He allowed 23 pressures last season over 13 games, he was solid in the running game and has no issue pulling on blocks. There are very few tackles who played as well as Armstead last season. The craziest part? He did so on an injured knee.

Outside of the fact that he missed a few games while getting it cleaned up, it was easy to forget what Armstead was going through. You’d see him limp between plays, and there were a couple of plays where he struggled to get out to block on a screen, but those reminders were rare.

You’d see him dragging his leg around the field before a game, think there was no shot he was going to play, and then he’d suit up and stone defensive ends for the next three hours. It was incredible to watch. Even his teammates were often in shock over how well he played last season.

“For him to play and not give up pressures on one leg at this level, it’s unbelievable,” right tackle Zach Strief gushed late last year. “That’s a tough dude that’s going to be a very successful player. All of the hype and all of the things we’ve said about him before the season have started has come true.”

New Orleans has now locked up one of the pillars of its organization. Left tackle won’t be a concern for a few more years. Now, the hope has to be that 2014 first-round pick Andrus Peat will lock down another spot on the offensive line. Maybe that’s guard next season. Maybe it’s right tackle. But if he steps up, there will be a good, solid foundation on which to build.

A decision will need to be made on center Max Unger next before next season, and the hope is that two guards emerge from somewhere. The Saints stocked up on rookie free agents to make sure the competition is fierce.

Now the attention turns back on Brees. The quarterback remains the last big piece of the puzzle. He’s entering the final year of his contract and could reach free agency if a deal isn’t struck before next offseason.

His line, with a little luck at guard, could be coming together. Now both he and the Saints need to find a way they can both be comfortable with him standing behind it for the foreseeable future.

When Brees starts evaluating the situation, he won’t have to look over his shoulder to see if anything is coming up behind him. Armstead has that covered.