NFL free agency rumors: Jermon Bushrod is '50/50' on Saints return

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jermon Bushrod is still unsure of his interest in returning to New Orleans. Money is the main issue at this point.

The New Orleans Saints still have re-signing Jermon Bushrod as a top priority before the NFL free agency period officially begins on Tuesday afternoon. Bushrod will be the one making the decision on his return, though, and according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, the left tackle is 50-50 on playing with the Saints in 2013.

Cap space is tight this offseason for the Saints. As King notes, linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith restructuring their contracts could determine Bushrod's fate in New Orleans. Both players are eating up plenty of money for next season.

Vilma has a cap hit of $8.6 million, while Smith's number is set at a whopping $14.5 million. With Rob Ryan in place as the new defensive coordinator, the Saints will move to a 3-4 defense. Vilma and Smith don't make great fits in that scheme.

If these two contracts are really holding the Saints back from re-signing Bushrod, they need to cut ties with at least one. Bushrod will easily be a top tackle on the market if he becomes a free agent. A longtime starter and two-time Pro Bowler for the Saints offensive line, Drew Brees needs his blindside protected more than New Orleans needs two expensive defenders.

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