Payton expects Reggie Bush to stay

NEW ORLEANS -- In the middle of a labor lockout, in which nothing is certain, we appear to have an exception.

That’s Reggie Bush. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton pretty much guaranteed the running back will be staying with the team. There had been some speculation before the lockout that Bush could be a salary casualty. Once the lockout started and everything froze, the speculation shifted slightly to throw out the possibility of Bush being gone once the labor situation is resolved.

It’s somewhat understandable because Bush is scheduled to make $12.6 million this year and currently would count $16 million against a potential salary cap in the last year of his first contract.

“He’s a guy that we feel will be part of our team,’’ Payton said.

The coach went onto say that decision was made before the lockout.

“As we finished the season and began to look at our roster and began to look at targets and how our team fits, he’s a guy that we want in the fold,’’ Payton said.

It’s pretty obvious how this will play out. Once there is labor peace, there’s almost no chance the Saints can afford to carry Bush’s $16 million cap figure.

Could Bush be in for a cut in pay?

“I think he's got a pretty good grasp of the economy and where he's at,’’ Payton said. “That's a big strength, especially when a player knows who he is and the type of team he's with. That's not a sure thing because, hey, there might be another suitor possibly, but I think he has a genuine desire to play here. I think the feeling is mutual.’’

Look, the reality -- even in difficult economic times -- is that it’s rare for an NFL player to take a straight paycut. The logical option here is to extend Bush’s contract well beyond this year and find a way to spread out that money.

Obviously, nothing’s been finalized and it can’t be while the lockout is on. But it sure sounds like the Saints previously had some productive discussions with Bush and his agent.

“I think that’s something that will take a little bit of time once we’re operating again and talking with the players and agents,’’ Payton said. “But I think that’s something that has a chance to get done. I think there will be a number. We just have to find that number that both sides are comfortable with.’’