Saints' Zach Strief on Andrus Peat: He's taking my job eventually

KENNER, La. – Zach Strief knew exactly what it meant for him when the New Orleans Saints drafted offensive tackle Andrus Peat with the 13th pick in the NFL draft.

“Look, he’s taking my job eventually. That is definitely happening at some point,” the 10th-year veteran right tackle said. “So my job and my role is to make sure that takes as long as possible. And that’s how I’ll approach it.

“At the same time, the entire time, I’ll be doing everything I can to help him do just that. Because I’ve talked about it before, at this point in my career I feel like that’s my job.”

That blunt, but sincere, answer pretty much sums up why Strief has been voted multiple times by teammates as an offensive captain -- and why he’s a multiple winner of the media appreciation award in New Orleans.

The longtime starter is neither overreacting nor underreacting to the unavoidable math. The Saints now have three standout tackles in Strief, Peat and third-year left tackle Terron Armstead. And that’s not a position where teams rotate guys in and out.

“I understand how it works,” said Strief, 31, who said he understands the "best player" approach to the draft.

Strief said no one from the Saints reached out to him after the draft to explain how it might affect him, "and I wouldn’t expect [them to], and I certainly don’t need it."

“Now, my dad probably wishes they would have reached out. He was all inflamed. But people that love you and are close to you feel differently," said Strief, who spoke during the Saints Hall of Fame golf tournament Monday. "I understand how it works, and I also understand I’m not gonna play forever. That being said, I don’t know that ultimately anything really changes this year for me.

“And maybe it does, and that’s fine too. Because I think at the end of the day, that’s the result of your performance. And the fair way is generally the right way.”

Strief shot down the notion that he could possibly move to guard -- a position he has never played before.

“That’s not something that they’ve brought up to me or that I would assume would happen,” said the 6-foot-7, 320-pounder, who said he “could play it if we didn’t have anyone to play that spot.” But Strief stressed that “a lot of people don’t know how good” current left guard contenders Tim Lelito and Senio Kelemete are.

“Those are two excellent football players,” Strief said, “and two guys I’m never gonna beat out as a guard. So it’ll be one of those two.”

Strief, however, wasn’t shortchanging himself when it came to the right tackle battle against Peat.

“I still think I’m playing at a high level, and I think I’m as healthy as I’ve been in my career and in as good of shape as I’ve been,” said Strief, who signed a five-year, $20 million contract before the 2014 season and has arguably been the Saints’ most consistent lineman over the past two years.

The Saints don't have much financial incentive to cut Strief immediately, since he's due only $2.1 million in salary and bonuses this year. But a decision will be required before he's due a $1.5 million roster bonus next spring.

“They’re gonna play the best five guys they can put on the field, and I totally agree with it," said Strief, a seventh-round pick out of Northwestern in 2006 who eventually earned a starting job by beating out former Pro Bowl right tackle Jon Stinchcomb in the summer of 2011.

"Now, if they were putting the five most talented players on the field, I probably never would have played once," Strief said. "But the reality is I think I still have a lot to give this team.”