PHOENIX — The image of the New Orleans Saints painted over the past two weeks by media reports was that of a burned-down house with the last surviving belongings sitting in the front yard, free to anyone who wanted to load them up.
The Saints were supposedly ripping things down to the studs. Everything had to go. Nothing was off limits.
This image was false.
“You know, we’ve never put a ‘for sale’ sign out on all of our players,” Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said. “You know, I’ve read that a couple times, that anything and everything was up for grabs. That was never true and isn’t true. And yet, at the same time, you get calls from teams all the time asking about certain things and certain players.”
It’s easy to see why the perception of this team created that image. The Saints traded away or released several key players from last year’s team, including tight end Jimmy Graham, linebacker Curtis Lofton, wide receiver Kenny Stills, running back Pierre Thomas and guard Ben Grubbs.
Loomis admitted that there has been a high level of turnover and that he understands where the perception is coming from since many of the players involved are either long-time members of the franchise or well known and beloved by the public.
But the Saints have also invested heavily in other areas of the roster by re-signing running back Mark Ingram, and by signing running back C.J. Spiller and cornerback Brandon Browner. Another hole on the roster was plugged by acquiring center Max Unger from the Seattle Seahawks in the trade for Graham.
That’s where the rumors and speculation begin to fall apart for Loomis. He’s trying to rebuild his roster and improve, not tear it apart. So when people begin speculating about him trading quarterback Drew Brees, it starts to sound a little crazy.
“I don’t know where those got manufactured from,” Loomis said. “I haven’t made a single call asking anybody about Drew Brees. I think that’s just in general some media members who have too much time on their hands, and they start coming up with these ‘what-if’ scenarios. So that’s the extent of that.”
While Brees might have had a down season by his own lofty standards, he still completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 4,952 yards with 33 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last season. Loomis said he has the utmost confidence in Brees being able to lead this team and pointed out the Saints have annually finished among the league leaders in offense during Brees’ nine years with the team.
That the offense has been so proficient in moving the ball is what gave New Orleans the ability to part with offensive pieces in exchange for more draft picks that will allow the Saints to improve the defense. Dealing Brees would undermine that effort.
“We’ve been able to generate offense throughout that period,” Loomis said. “And yet our defense has been up and down. So when you look at your team, you’re trying to assess the assets that you have and, ‘How can we help ourselves in areas of weakness?’ And sometimes, that requires you to take a strength of your team and turn it into something else.”
One question that has come up with the team now having so many draft picks, including five in the first three rounds, is whether the Saints would be interested in trading up to select Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota as a successor to Brees.
Loomis brushed it off by saying that he would have to see what happens in the draft and added that finding someone to eventually replace Brees is not something he can force.
“I think we treat it much like we treat any position,” Loomis said. “We’re always looking to get a good player at every position that can push the starting player in the position and can develop into a starter.
“Then he’s either your starter or you have an asset you can use and get something for later or be a great backup. I don’t know that that’s changed any. Yet we’re not going to be able to force a pick and take somebody because we think Drew is getting older. It has to be the right guy at the right time.”
For now, as far as quarterback is concerned, it sounds like Brees is still the right guy at this time.