Center Goodwin almost stayed with Saints

NEW ORLEANS -- Although he’s about to play in the Super Bowl, San Francisco 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin sounded like a guy with some mixed emotions about returning to a city where he spent five years of his career.

Goodwin left the Saints in 2011.

“Definitely one of the toughest decisions of my life,’’ Goodwin said. “I really loved being here. I love the city of New Orleans. Even on [the day he signed with San Francisco], I changed my mind twice. It was definitely a really tough decision. I had to take a leap of faith.’’

Goodwin, 34, signed a three-year deal worth about $11 million with San Francisco. The Saints made an offer to keep Goodwin, but the duration of that proposed deal wasn’t as long.

“Being a guy that was over 30, the contract offered me more security long term,’’ Goodwin said. “I didn’t want to get into the movement every year.’’

Goodwin was part of a dominant offensive line when the Saints won the Super Bowl in the 2009 season. But age and economics have brought change to the line and there could be more changes in the future.

In addition to Goodwin, guard Carl Nicks left the Saints for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season.

But now the Saints face another big offseason when it comes to their offensive line. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.

I’m sure the Saints will make an attempt to keep Bushrod. But that doesn’t mean it will work out. Bushrod has evolved into a Pro Bowler and could command big money on the open market.

The Saints might not have the salary-cap room to keep Bushrod. They have about $140 million committed toward a 2013 salary cap that is expected to be about $120 million.