INDIANAPLOLIS -- Despite speculation that his $8 million base salary for 2010 might prompt the New Orleans Saints to release Reggie Bush, team sources and two sources close to the four-year veteran said late Friday that the former USC star will return to the defending Super Bowl champions, likely under his current contract.
This confirms several ESPN.com reports in the past month that Bush was in no danger of being released.
"He'll be with us. He's not going anywhere," Saints coach Sean Payton told the New Orleans Times-Picayune at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. "Mickey [Loomis] and I talked the other day about it. We value what this player brings, what he's been in three of the last four years ... really in all four seasons here. So I think we've spent more time in the other areas than we have discussing his status. So he's full speed ahead, he finished strong, and he'll be with us."
But ESPN.com also reported there was a chance Bush might be asked to restructure his contract, as he did last summer. Such a maneuver, with a signing bonus replacing much of the $8 million salary for '10, would reduce the salary cap hit but still allow Bush to collect all of the compensation due him for the coming season.
In several meetings with agent Joel Segal, however, New Orleans officials have not broached the possibility of a restructuring. And with 2010 likely to be an uncapped season, they may not.
A source close to Bush said he will "definitely" return in 2010, and a club official later agreed with that assessment. A Saints source said there was "no scenario at all" in which Bush did not fit into New Orleans' plans for 2010.
The 2005 Heisman Trophy winner was the second overall selection in the '06 draft and subsequently signed a six-year contract with a maximum value of $52.2 million.
In four seasons with the club, Bush has fallen somewhat short of the lofty expectations for him but has emerged especially in 2009 as a key complementary/situational player in the Saints' potent offense. Often utilized as a third-down receiver, Bush has proven to be a difficult matchup for opposing linebackers and safeties, particularly when he has the ball in the open field.
In 52 career appearances, Bush, who is very popular in the community, has 35 starts. He has rushed 488 times for 1,940 yards and 17 touchdowns and has posted 260 catches for 1,934 yards and 11 touchdowns. In the team's 2009 Super Bowl-winning campaign, Bush totaled 725 yards from scrimmage and scored eight times, tying his career best for touchdowns. Bush's 117 "touches" in 2009, the total of his carries and receptions, were the fewest of his career.
Bush's rushing yardage has diminished each of the past three seasons, but his average yards per carry have increased every year of his career, as coach Sean Payton learns how to best utilize the slippery tailback.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.