Saints lose safety, safety net Rafael Bush to Lions

The loss of Rafael Bush leaves a void in the No. 3 safety role for the Saints. Derick E. Hingle/USA Today Sports

The New Orleans Saints lost longtime safety and safety net Rafael Bush on Saturday when he signed with the Detroit Lions.

It’s unclear how aggressively the Saints tried to keep Bush. But his loss definitely creates a void in that No. 3 safety role. The Saints have counted on Bush as a part-time starter and special teams standout since 2012.

Although Bush missed 15 games last year with a chest injury and six games in 2014 with a broken leg, he still started 14 games over the past three years, filling in at both safety spots or joining into three-safety rotations.

The Saints are still set with starters Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd. But they’re awfully thin behind them now with only Vinnie Sunseri, Alden Darby and Erik Harris under contract.

Bush’s departure could make it even more important for New Orleans to sign a veteran. Their choices could include former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears starter Chris Conte, whom the NFL Network reported the Saints have shown interest in. Or they could re-sign veteran backup Jamarca Sanford, who made his biggest play in two years with the Saints in Week 17 last year with a late interception that set up a game-winning field goal against the Atlanta Falcons.

Bush is the Saints’ second unrestricted free agent to sign with another team, after tight end Benjamin Watson departed to the Baltimore Ravens. The Saints also opted not to tender restricted free agent running back Khiry Robinson, who signed with the New York Jets.