A funny thing happens to humans when they’re faced with a deadline: they get motivated. We’re seeing that today with the labour negotiations during the final hours before midnight, and we’re seeing it as teams scramble to make important moves before darkness potentially descends on free agency for the foreseeable future.

The latest move comes from New Orleans, with the Saints signing running back Pierre Thomas to a four-year contract worth a reported $12 million. Due to become a free agent if and when free agency begins, Thomas was part of an injury-riddled Saints backfield this past season that saw the emergence of Chris Ivory. A high ankle sprain had the 26-year-old on the sidelines for 10 games, limiting his rushing totals to just 269 yards and two touchdowns.

This became an essential signing for the Saints given the piece of walking glass that acts as Thomas’ other backfield partner. The fragile Reggie Bush has missed 20 games over the past four seasons. There was speculation that because of the $11.8 million Bush is due in 2011 he may join the ranks of the unemployed, but that was killed last week. Bush will likely have his contract restructured.

Thomas’ injury woes this season were the first major round of bumps and bruises in his four-year career, and they’re why this signing is still mildly surprising given the controversy surrounding his ankle rehabilitation. But this now gives the team flexibility at running back if their attempts to re-work Bush’s contract fall through.

Thomas’ blend of outside running and pass-catching provide the kind of backfield versatility ideal for Sean Payton’s system that looks to pass first, and run later. He’s essentially functioned as a much healthier version of Bush, pumping out 3,440 all-purpose yards over the last three seasons compared to Bush’s 2,451.