There was plenty of promise ahead for Randall Gay after the 2004 season.
The former LSU starter made the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent that season and ended up starting nine games when a rash of injuries infected the secondary. Gay even started in Super Bowl XXXIX, doing a solid job covering wide receiver Terrell Owens and leading the Patriots in tackles with 11.
But that didn't provide Gay with the momentum he needed to secure a full-time starting job, according to patriotsinsider.com's Jon Scott, who has covered Gay's entire career in New England.
"Gay wasn't able to parlay his rookie success into decent playing time as he battled various ailments, notably an ankle injury in 2005 and a serious hamstring issue in 2006," Scotts said.
The very thing that made Gay a starter in 2004 hindered his career after that, as he played just eight games from 2005-06.
In New England, players are interchangeable parts, and the secondary was no different. Gay played both cornerback and safety in the Patriots defense, and he needed to. For whatever reason, the Patriots secondary is beset by injuries every season.
While Gay was unable to secure a consistent starting role, he did provide adequate services for injured players in 2007, playing in all 16 games (starting three). He notched 38 tackles and picked off a career-high three passes. He also played in his second Super Bowl, with the Patriots losing to the New York Giants in Arizona.
Gay comes to a New Orleans Saints team that needed to fortify its secondary after a sub-part 2007. The free-agent acquisition of Jason David turned out to be a dud for the secondary, as the unit ranked 30th against the pass. The unit gave up 7.9 yards per pass attempt (worst in the NFL), 32 touchdowns (tied for worst in the NFL) and 15 pass plays of 40 or more yards (tied for worst in the NFL). It was clear the Saints had to do something to give veteran Mike McKenzie a little help.
Is Gay the answer? He's certainly recognizable to those in the Bayou, as he used to call Baton Rouge home. For Gay, returning to New Orleans probably constituted a no-brainer.
But for Scott, who saw Gay play for four seasons, he isn't sure about Gay's impact in New Orleans. Gay never became a full-time starter on merit and he's shown a propensity for injuries. The fact that he can play both cornerback and safety should be helpful to the Saints, he said, but he said Gay's merits as a full-time starter are debatable.
But he likely wouldn't get that chance in New England.
"If New Orleans is looking for a starter at corner, Gay could fill that role, but he's
probably better suited to a situational defender playing an extra corner or safety as
necessary," Scott said. "He's not going to be a ballhawk — his career high for (interceptions in) a season was three last year. But he's good enough to be a sure tackler and occasionally get in there to break up the pass on a third down or goal line situation."
Matthew Postins is the editor of saintsinsider.com. He is an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association.