Following the loss of Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod to the Chicago Bears in free agency last month, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton talked about the left tackle spot on his depth chart being gray.
It wasn’t a ringing endorsement for Charles Brown, a 2010 second-round draft pick who’s been plagued by injuries in his first three seasons and has played in just 21 games with eight starts.
On Thursday, the Saints tried to take some of the gray away when they agreed to a one-year contract with former St. Louis Rams and New York Jets tackle Jason Smith.
When asked at the owners meetings in March about Brown possibly replacing Bushrod, Payton sounded skeptical about him taking over at a position where the No. 1 job is protecting Drew Brees’ blind side.
“He has to be available,” Brees said of Brown, who finished the last two seasons on injured reserve with hip and knee problems. “Year after year if you’re unable to (stay on the field), then it becomes as a coach, ‘Do we have him, do we not have him?’
“I look at that spot like there’s a magnet (on the depth chart) with no name on it,” he said. “Gray, it’s just gray.”
At the least, the Saints created competition for the job when they agreed with Smith, who has played in 45 games with 26 starts at left and right tackle.
As the second overall pick of the 2009 draft by the Rams, the 6-foot-5, 308-pound Smith helped block for 1,000-yard rusher Steven Jackson in his first three seasons before going to the Jets before the start of the 2012 season.
Smith started 15 games at right tackle in 2010 when Jackson rushed for 1,241 yards and Sam Bradford became only the second rookie quarterback to throw for more than 3,500 yards.
With the Jets, Smith served as a backup tackle and came in as an extra tight end for blocking purposes. Smith, who went to Baylor as a tight end before being converted to tackle, was a first-team All-America selection in 2008.