“Look, Jahri Evans had been a really good player for us the four years he’s been with us,” Loomis said. “He was a late-round draft pick, and we think he’s the best guard in football, we think he might be the best lineman in football. We didn’t want to risk losing him. We wanted to get him signed.”
And so Evans and the club was able to come to a seven-year, $56.7 million deal in May, one that shook the landscape of the market for elite guards just enough to change things in Logan Mankins’s talk. While Tom Brady and Peyton Manning’s contract situations are often compared, there are far more differences between the negotiating positions of the quarterbacks than there are between Mankins and Evans. Both guards were restricted free agents that would’ve been unrestricted in the old environment. Both were tendered at the highest level. Both are two-time Pro Bowlers.
Whether the two are even on the field may be a different matter, and is a matter of opinion. What’s fact is they entered the offseason in very similar situations.
“It was a huge commitment and shows how much faith the ownership and the coaches have in me,” said Evans, a third-year RFA last year who played the 2009 season under the tender. “I’m just looking forward to getting out there and continuing to grow. … I just knew my situation. I was in the same boat a year ago, and I got tendered. And Mickey and ownership just thought it was a good thing to get it done this year, and that’s what we did.”
Evans said, “I’d heard a little bit about” Mankins’s situation. But he added: “I’m worried about the Saints, I’m not much worried about that.”
Now, getting Evans done might not have been the easiest thing for the Saints to accomplish. But Loomis said it really wasn’t a whole tougher in 2010 than it would’ve been previously.
“They’re all complicated,” Loomis said of contract. “I don’t know if it’s moreso. What I would say is you have to be mindful that, with a player and his contract, it’s a personal issue. For any of us on that side of the table, it’s a personal issue and for the club it’s a real business issue. And we’ve just gotta be sensitive to the fact that it is a personal issue and deal with that accordingly.”
The good news for the Saints is that there is a peripheral benefit in rewarding a rising player in the locker room.
But Loomis said, frankly, that the club couldn’t look at it that way going into the talks. Instead, the Saints had to go at it with the aforementioned business-centered approach.
“At the end of the day, it’s gotta be a deal that you feel good about for your team and in your salary structure,” Loomis said. “If there’s an ancillary benefit that it sends a good message to your team, that’s great. But that shouldn’t be the primary concern. The primary concern is to do what’s best for the organization.”