Saints RT Zach Strief to stay on IR, leaving future in doubt

METAIRIE, La. -- Longtime New Orleans Saints right tackle Zach Strief will not return from injured reserve this season, a source told ESPN on Thursday.

Strief had surgery about two weeks ago to repair his ACL and MCL, ending his 12th NFL season and obviously leaving his future in doubt at age 34.

There was some hope that he might be able to return this season after he was placed on injured reserve in Week 5, depending on how his knee injury responded to rest and treatment. Surgery, however, wound up being necessary.

Rookie first-round draft pick Ryan Ramczyk has been terrific as Strief's replacement. However, Saints left tackle Terron Armstead is dealing with thigh and shoulder injuries this week, so the added depth might have come in handy if Strief had been able to return.

Strief has been a pillar in the Saints' lineup since he first took over as a starter in 2011. He has started 94 regular-season games. A seventh-round draft pick out of Northwestern in 2006, Strief is tied with Drew Brees as the longest-tenured players on New Orleans' roster.

Strief was still going strong before he first suffered the knee injury in Week 1 and re-injured it in Week 4. He had one of his best seasons in 2016 and actually earned a rare raise from the Saints this offseason to reflect the level of his play.

Strief still has a year remaining on his contract, but he has described himself as "year to year" during the past two seasons, saying he'll walk away if he ever feels like he is becoming a liability.

Earlier this season, he said he would love to be able to pass the torch to Ramczyk and know that he's leaving the position in good hands.

"It would be ideal for me here to have a clean transition and have him go on and play 10 years," Strief said in June. "I would be proud of being a part of that."