The New Orleans Saints gave running back Reggie Bush(notes) permission in February to talk to other teams and gauge his value as the franchise and Bush tried to work out a restructured contract, according to three NFL sources.
Bush and agent Joel Segal were told that a number of teams would be interested in paying him handsomely, or at least more than the Saints have apparently been willing to offer at this point. That is one of the reasons that Bush has made contradictory statements about his future in New Orleans and didn't participate in offseason workouts with Saints players. The expectation from Bush, according to the sources, is that he will be playing for another team next season.
The Saints did not respond to two emails requesting comment.
Among the most likely candidates for Bush's services, according to one of the sources, are the Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and the New York Giants. Miami and Pittsburgh are looking to add speed on offense. Seattle is coached by Pete Carroll, Bush's former coach at USC. The Giants' interest would depend on whether the team is able to keep running back Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) once free agency starts.
In addition, the Philadelphia Eagles have expressed strong interest in Bush. However, Bush is unlikely to sign there because of concerns about having a potentially limited role. The Eagles already have explosive wide receivers DeSean Jackson(notes) and Jeremy Maclin(notes), a starting running back in LeSean McCoy(notes) and drafted speedy running back Dion Lewis(notes) in April's NFL draft.
Bush said in January that his future with the team would likely depend on whether he and the team could work out a new deal. Bush is scheduled to make an $11.8 million base salary in 2011. It's believed that the Saints want to cut his salary by more than half.
Over the past two seasons, Bush, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2006 draft, has become a role player. He has missed 10 games because of injury and been limited to only 106 carries and 81 receptions in the regular season. He has scored a total of nine rushing and receiving touchdowns, but remains an explosive player.
However, the Saints appear set on getting back to a more conventional running game that was part of their run to a Super Bowl title in 2009. The team selected running back Mark Ingram(notes) in the first round of this year's draft. Ingram is a more prototypical, bell-cow running back.
After the Saints drafted Ingram, Bush wrote via Twitter, "It's been fun New Orleans." Bush then later made an effort to be polite and backtracked a little, saying he hoped to end his career as a Saint.