1. Why did Graham go?
That’s the $40 million question — the value of the contract Jimmy Graham signed last year. There were better ways for the cap-strapped Saints to save money; they actually picked up $2.5 million more in cap responsibility by adding center Max Unger. The feeling here is that after the squabble last offseason over whether Graham was a tight end or a wide receiver and how he should be paid accordingly, the relationship between him and the team was permanently dented. Graham’s decline in production from 2013 to 2014 obviously didn’t make him invaluable to the franchise.
2. Who do the Saints get?
In trading Graham to Seattle along with their fourth-round draft choice, the Saints get the Seahawks’ first-round choice (the 31st pick since Seattle lost the Super Bowl) and Unger. A Pro Bowl pick in 2013, Unger played just six games last season because of injuries (knee, ankle) but returned to start in the Super Bowl. With Unger, the Saints upgrade themselves at a key offensive line spot and allow Tim Lelito to slide permanently back to guard. Keeping Drew Brees upright in the pocket is a huge priority, apparently as big or bigger than whom he’s throwing to.
3. What about the draft pick?
The Saints already possess the No. 13 pick, so gaining the 31st pick provides New Orleans with almost endless possibilities. They could trade both to move way up in draft status to go for a pass rusher like USC’s Leonard Williams or Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr., or trade the first pick now that they have another. Most likely the Saints will choose to stock up on some of the top talents in the draft, given their many needs. Any early pick could go for a cornerback like LSU’s Jalen Collins or Washington’s Marcus Peters, while the latter could be spent on a lineman or a wide receiver.
4. Are the Saints done dealing?
Considering that Tuesday was just day one of free agency and that in addition to Graham the Saints also have sent LB Curtis Lofton and RB Pierre Thomas packing, the likely answer is no. Saints coach Sean Payton promised a shake-up this offseason, and with Graham getting dealt it’s clear just about anyone except Brees and the recently re-signed Mark Ingram could be trade fodder. Though tracking the Saints’ movements this offseason so far has been a chore, the next player to watch could be CB Keenan Lewis, who said Tuesday on Instagram that he either wants to finalize the last three years of his deal or go.