Saints, Strief show mutual interest

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints had some early discussions with free agent Zach Strief's agent, Ralph Cindrich, during the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. But the key word is "early."

"There is a mutual interest to get something done on both sides, and we had a good meeting and discussions," Cindrich said.

It's still too early to predict whether Strief will remain with the Saints. But I think it's a good sign that they've had some early discussions. I got the impression in previous years that the Saints were resigned to letting linemen like Carl Nicks and Jermon Bushrod get away -- without really having any substantial talks with them before the start of free agency.

As I've written before, I think the Saints will definitely be interested in keeping Strief, who arguably just had his best season in his third year as the team's starter at right tackle. However, money will be a big issue since the Saints are slammed tight against the salary cap. It's possible another team would be willing to pay more for the steady 30-year-old on the open market.

I feel the same way about center Brian de la Puente and safety Malcolm Jenkins -- two of the Saints' other full-time starters who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents on March 11. I could see one or both of them coming back, but only at the right price.

The Advocate's Ramon Antonio Vargas also reported over the weekend that the Saints have had preliminary discussions about possibly re-signing backup receiver Robert Meachem. That would also make sense, as long as Meachem's deal is cap-friendly.