When the New Orleans Saints selected Stanford tackle Andrus Peat with the 13th pick in the draft, the choice prompted more questions than answers.
With Peat in the fold, would Zach Strief or Terron Armstead kick inside to fill the spot at guard left by traded veteran Ben Grubbs? What did Peat’s selection mean for Tim Lelito, the presumed successor to Grubbs at left guard? Is Peat a possibility to start his career inside?
The men whom Peat is joining on the offensive line aren’t asking any of those questions.
“Well, Zach’s 6-7 and never played guard in his life, so I doubt he’ll move to guard,” Lelito said at the Saints Hall of Fame Celebrity Golf Classic on Monday at Chateau Golf and Country Club in Kenner. “I think Terron’s a true tackle as well, and he’s also never played guard, so good luck with that.”
Lelito, who said he followed the draft on the Saints app, admitted he was surprised by Peat’s selection. Strief, on the other hand, has been in the NFL long enough that he has gotten used to the ebbs and flows of the draft process.
“First of all, I think you understand that they really are trying to get the best players they can get,” Strief said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if they have someone they’re comfortable with or someone they’re not comfortable with; they’re going to take the guy that they think can help the team.”
But Strief never thought about the possibility of moving to guard after the Saints took Peat. The starter for parts of the past four seasons, Strief sees Peat as his eventual replacement at right tackle.
“I’ve never played guard; I don’t expect that to happen,” Strief said. “I think, first of all, the thing a lot of people don’t know is how good Tim Lelito and Senio (Kelemete) are. Those are two excellent football players, and they’re going to let those guys battle it out for that spot. … Two guys I’m never going to beat out as a guard.”
Lelito has trouble seeing his competition coming from the outside. An undrafted free agent who spent most of last season as the swing lineman capable of filling in at guard or center, Lelito expects a challenge for the left guard spot to come from within the roster, whether it’s from Kelemete or another player. Even if the Saints didn’t make the big move some expected to fill the void left by Grubbs, Lelito is expecting a fight for the job.
“You have myself, you have Kelemete, you have (Michael) Brewster, you have Andrew Miller, those types of guys; I think we signed a couple of offensive guards in rookie minicamps,” Lelito said. “Just because we didn’t sign any big names or draft an offensive lineman, it doesn’t mean there’s not competition out there already.”
Saints coach Sean Payton has always said the team sees Peat as a tackle. And that’s where the first-round pick spent last weekend’s rookie minicamp.
“Right now, they’re playing me at tackle,” Peat said Saturday. “I’m just doing whatever they ask me to do, basically, and wherever they see me fitting in, I’m ready to play.”
Peat spent all of his time in the three days of minicamp on the outside.
“He’s taking reps at right and left. Predominantly we worked him at the right tackle position. He has the skill set to play either,” Payton said. “Obviously he played left tackle at college. I think it’s going to be important for him initially as he gets ready to come to the veterans minicamp and then (in) training camp to begin to have a primary spot. I see that being initially at right, but also see him being able to go and play left.”
What that means is, for the foreseeable future, Peat and Strief are going to be competing for the right tackle spot.
Strief, a 31-year-old heading into his 10th season in the NFL, knows the situation.
“He’s taking my job eventually,” Strief said. “At some point, that’s happening, so my job and my role is to make that take as long as possible. And that’s how I’ll approach that. And at the same time — the entire time — I’ll be doing everything I can to help him do just that.”