Sean Payton: Wouldn't trade Terron Armstead for any LT in the league

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints are in a bit of a rebuilding mode, with questions swirling about how many more changes will be in store this offseason.

But one guy who's not going anywhere is third-year left tackle Terron Armstead, who is entrenched as one of the Saints’ strongest building blocks.

Armstead has played at a Pro Bowl level this year, despite fighting through a knee injury ever since he had arthroscopic surgery performed in October that sidelined him for two games.

Coach Sean Payton didn’t hold back his praise for Armstead on Wednesday when asked about the way Armstead was clearly hobbled by the injury during Sunday’s 38-27 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“It was one of the more gutsiest performances I’ve seen in a while,” Payton said. “We were banged-up at the position, and in a lot of cases guys would have just said, ‘Ahh, I can’t go.’ But it’s been fantastic.

“There’s not a left tackle I would trade him for in the league. I really like the way he’s progressed. He’s smart, he’s athletic. And last week if you watch the tape, you can see that he’s not 100 percent and he fights through it.”

As I wrote last week, the Saints’ 6-9 record is probably the only thing that kept Armstead from making his first Pro Bowl this year. Pro Football Focus had him rated as the third best tackle when Pro Bowl rosters were announced. They have him credited with only 20 total pressures allowed all season.

The 6-foot-5, 304-pounder, who was drafted in the third round out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in 2013, is a tremendous athlete. He still holds the record for fastest 40-yard dash time by an offensive lineman at the NFL scouting combine (4.71 seconds). And he has been a big asset as both a pass protector and run blocker.

Meanwhile, the Saints’ other offensive tackle of the future -- rookie first-round draft choice Andrus Peat -- also had a solid game at right tackle on Sunday, according to Payton.

Peat played left tackle at Stanford, but his future with the Saints will likely be at right tackle because of Armstead’s presence.

Peat (6-7, 316) has now started games at left tackle (when Armstead was hurt), left guard and right tackle this year. He had some hits and misses at the unfamiliar guard position, but Payton said he played better in his debut at right tackle this past week in place of injured veteran Zach Strief.

“He handled it well,” Payton said. “One of the challenges he’s been faced with is he’s worked at left tackle, worked at left guard, played left guard and then over to right tackle. ... We see Andrus as a tackle and he’s smart. I think he played well [Sunday], probably one of his better games this season. At a position that certainty he’s more comfortable with and fit for.”