For the second year in a row, the New Orleans Saints face financial hardships and they are making the most of the situation.
It began with the release of players like running back Pierre Thomas and linebacker Curtis Lofton.
It did not stop there.
On Tuesday afternoon, rumors circulated that the Saints were actively shopping Drew Brees’ go-to-guy, tight end Jimmy Graham.
Literally five minutes later, the Seahawks popped up as a potential suitor for Graham. Within 15 minutes from the news initially breaking, Graham was set to take his talents to Seattle.
Obviously, the Who Dat Nation is taking the news hard. First it was the beloved running back Thomas, a crucial piece in the Super Bowl winning team of 2009.
Then it was Lofton, a tackling machine for the Saints defense.
Now, Graham, arguably the best player who has the most upside on the black and gold roster.
I am here to tell the Who Dat Nation to have no fear because once again, General Manager Mickey Loomis and Head Coach Sean Payton are doing what is best for business.
There is one word that I want folks to keep in mind, VALUE.
As stated before, the Saints are tight on salary cap space and they have loosened the bind by trimming down the roster.
I love good ole PT Cruiser (Thomas) just as much as the next Who Dat. He has without doubt been one of the best players in Saints history, a true team guy taking pay cuts when asked and always putting his best foot forward no matter what was asked of him. From the bottom of my heart as a fan, I say thank you to Thomas.
However, put the emotion aside and realize the Saints saved a hair shy of $2 million in cap space for 2015. Is it worth it to keep Thomas?
He was used primarily for screens, where he simply isn’t as much of a threat as he used to be.
Sorry my fellow fans, but the answer is no.
Lofton was another player who came at a hefty price and his production simply wasn’t worth it. Cutting the 28-year-old linebacker saved the Saints $7.25 million. I realize Lofton racked up close to 400 tackles in three seasons with New Orleans, but he is also notorious for missing tackles. While I like Lofton, I don’t like a middle linebacker making $7.25 million, unless your name is Luke Kuechly.
As stated earlier, I believe Graham was the best player on the Saints roster with tremendous upside. Normally, I would not want a team I like to trade their best player, but in this case, sell.
New Orleans shipped Graham along with a 4th round draft choice for pro bowl center Max Unger and a 1st Round draft pick.
The Saints offensive line was horrendous last year, especially in the interior line. Often times last year, the pocket would collapse not allowing Brees to step up and fire the ball downfield as we have seen in years past.
Before the offseason began, there were rumors that either guard Ben Grubbs or Jahri Evans would be cut while the other would renegotiate their contracts. Both are among the five highest paid players for the black and gold.
It seems like forever and a day ago that both Grubbs and Evans were near the top of the league as guards. Unger will be a key part in the Saints offensive line success moving forward as he could potentially help milk whatever is left in the tank of the two guards until their replacements are found.
With center being one of the biggest needs after losing Brian De La Puente to the Bears last offseason, the Saints have found a fantastic replacement.
What we are seeing with New Orleans offense is not a rebuild, but simply a restructure.
Shipping Graham, focusing on the interior line and re-siging Mark Ingram to a 4-year deal could mean the Saints are going to focus attention on a power run game.
As far as tight end is concerned, have no fear because the Saints still have a young pass catcher in Josh Hill and an excellent blocker and reliable target in Ben Watson who both fit the mold of a true tight end.
While everyone can complain about losing tangible playmakers that you see on every snap, the most important positions begin up front.
The two teams (Patriots and Seahawks) that competed in the Super Bowl last year made it because of one common trait. Both teams control the line of scrimmage.
The Dallas Cowboys are another team that sticks out because they have been slowly building up the offensive line, which led them to a 12-4 season and a solid playoff run last year.
DeMarco Murray had the best season for a running back in Cowboys history and an aging Tony Romo had the best season of his career as well all thanks to a stellar offensive line, period.
Do I think the Saints will win the Super Bowl next year? No. That belongs to Seattle because that roster is still loaded and they have a solid back up at center named Patrick Lewis who hails from Metairie, Louisiana.
Adding Jimmy Graham gives them a go-to-guy that Russell Wilson has been missing desperately.
As for the Saints, this move will help them in the long term. Hopefully they will make some wise choices with the additional draft pick.
In the meantime, fingers crossed that the Saints can land either Tramon Williams or Brandon Browner in free agency.
From one Saints to another, relax. This is a business.
For a regime (Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis) who has a reputation of winning, 7-9 will not sit well with them.
Photo: Crystal LoGiudice — USA Today Sports
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