NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) — The Saints and Jonathan Goodwin have agreed to terms on a contract bringing the veteran center back to New Orleans, a person familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday.
Goodwin was expected to sign the one-year contract, worth $955,000, on Tuesday and take part in a voluntary non-contact practices this week, said the person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.
The 35-year-old Goodwin has spent the past three seasons with San Francisco, playing in three straight NFC title games and a Super Bowl.
Goodwin played for New Orleans from 2006 to 2010, starting the last three of those seasons. He was named to a Pro Bowl and won a Super Bowl in the 2009 season.
Prior to the re-acquisition of Goodwin, second-year pro Tim Lelito and undrafted rookie Matt Armstrong were the top candidates to take over the Saints’ starting center job, which was vacated by Brian de la Puente when he left for Chicago in free agency.
The experience of the 6-foot-3, 318-pound Goodwin will give him an edge.
Lelito saw limited action last season, but only as a reserve guard, while his work as a backup center was limited to practice.
At the same time, the Saints see the 6-4, 315-pound Lelito as a promising prospect and also have asserted that a young center can thrive in their system, in part because quarterback Drew Brees calls out the bulk of blocking adjustments at the line of scrimmage and in part because whoever plays center will have a pair of veteran Pro Bowlers on either side of him in guards Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs.
However, because offseason practices do not involve full contact, it has been difficult for coaches to fully evaluate how ready Lelito is to be a regular center.
“Tim is someone that has handled the transition right now pretty well,” coach Sean Payton said last week. “But he is going to have to, when we get into training camp, do it in a live setting.”
Like Lelito, the 6-2, 302-pound Armstrong played at Grand Valley State. Last season, he was named by the Rimington Award committee as the nation’s top Division II center.
Evans is the only starter on the offensive line who also started during Goodwin’s last season in New Orleans. Goodwin was teammates with Zach Strief for five seasons, but Strief did not take over as the starter at right tackle until 2011, the year Goodwin left for San Francisco.
On the left side of the line are Grubbs, who was acquired as a free agent in 2012, and tackle Terron Armstrong, who was drafted in 2013.