The Saints have tendered safety Rafael Bush, who is due to hit restricted free agency on March 11, a league source said Thursday.
Tendering Bush gives the Saints the right to match any offer he might get from other teams interested in him. He was extended the minimum $1.3 million tender that could be handed to him, the source said.
In his third season playing in the NFL and his second year with the Saints, Bush was credited by the team with 45 tackles (29 of which were solo), six pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery over 13 games and six starts. He also tacked on four special-teams stops.
He handled an increased workload well early in the season when safeties Malcolm Jenkins (an unrestricted free agent) and Roman Harper (who’s been released) were injured.
Bush also performed well after rookie safetyKenny Vaccaro sustained a season-ending ankle fracture in Week 16. If New Orleans is unable to keep Jenkins, many would say he’s the heir apparent to the starting job at free safety.
In one of his last news conferences of the 2013 season, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan called Bush “an ascending football player."
As of Wednesday evening, the Saints were believed to be about $1.5 million under the 2014 salary cap, counting tight end Jimmy Graham’s one-year contract tender of $7.035 million.
Though they were right up against the cap, the Saints were active as far as talking with players who’ve manned valuable roles for them about prolonging their time in New Orleans. Bush was no exception, being approached in the latter part of February.