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BillyCarpenter1 06-11-2003 11:53 AM

News about Fotenot

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Saints News

N.O.'s Fontenot in the spotlight

Wednesday June 11, 2003

By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer

Jerry Fontenot's future with the Saints will be determined this week, possibly as early as today, the veteran center and team officials said Tuesday.

Fontenot's agent, Tony Agnone, met with Saints general manager Mickey Loomis on Monday in an effort to finalize negotiations, which have been going on for months. The sides could meet again today, Fontenot said, calling Wednesday "the magic day" for a decision.

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"Obviously, we want Jerry to be a part of our team," Loomis said. "In all negotiations, you reach a point where you say 'this is our final offer.' We're getting closer to that point. The ball is in Jerry's court right now."

Fontenot said the Saints have offered him a one-year deal with a base salary of $755,000. But, he said the structure of the deal has been the biggest stumbling block. Fontenot said he is seeking roster and reporting bonuses, while Saints officials want him to earn additional money through a performance-based incentive package.

Fontenot also is weighing a three-year offer from the Jacksonville Jaguars that is similar in pay. The Jaguars are an attractive alternative to the Saints. New Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio was a Saints assistant in 1997 and 1998. Jaguars linemen Chris Naeole and Daryl Terrell teamed with Fontenot in New Orleans from 1999 to 2001.

Fontenot has stayed in contact with members of the coaching staff throughout the offseason and has indicated to teammates and coaches that he would prefer to remain in New Orleans. A native of Lafayette, Fontenot, 36, has said he wants to play for two more seasons and would like to play for a team with a chance to win the Super Bowl.

Since signing with the Saints as a free agent in 1997, Fontenot has started 84 of 96 games, including every game during the past four seasons. He also has served as the team representative for the NFL Players Association and is a valued leader in the locker room.

In his absence, veteran guard Kendyl Jacox and second-year lineman LeCharles Bentley have alternated snaps at center during offseason workouts. If Fontenot is not re-signed, Jacox would likely be the first option to move to center, Coach Jim Haslett said.

Haslett said he would like Fontenot to make a decision soon so the offensive linemen can settle into their new roles and the offense can establish continuity before the final minicamp, which begins Tuesday.

"We'll have a plan either way," Haslett said. "Obviously, Jerry has always been a part of our plans, and we are very comfortable with him in our offense. But we're starting to get more comfortable with it the other way, as well."

SMITH UPDATE: Free agent quarterback Akili Smith will visit the Saints late today or Thursday.

Loomis said the Saints are interested in Smith as a backup or No. 3 quarterback but have not made an offer to the former No. 1 draft pick by Cincinnati in 1999.

"It's still a feeling-out process on both sides," Loomis said.

Smith visited the New York Jets on Monday and planned to visit Green Bay on Tuesday before heading to New Orleans.

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