Saints tight end Jimmy Graham


It’s still crazy to think about a day later. But, yes, Jimmy Graham is a member of the Seattle Seahawks.

When the deal was struck, it sent the mind reeling. It was hard to look beyond the headline and understand what was really happening. But there is logic behind the Saints making the move to trade away their best offensive asset this side of Drew Brees.

It will take some time before we know if that logic leads to results. This is a big gamble. But if things work out as hoped, the Saints might come out of this OK. They might even come out of it better.

So, after a day of processing the trade that sent Graham to Seattle along with a fourth-round pick in exchange for center Max Unger and a first-round pick, here are a few additional thoughts on the move:

1. A big swing: Things were going to get better by standing pat. Even though the argument has been made several times that New Orleans was a few bounces of the ball away from winning 10 games, this team still finished 7-9.

There was something wrong with the makeup of the roster that led to those results. Perhaps Graham wasn’t part of those problems, but solutions were needed. Someone had to go to make maneuvering possible. That player happened to be Graham.

After a season like, when change is needed, you have to respect general manager Mickey Loomis’ willingness to choke up and take the biggest swing possible. If he misses, he misses big. That will put him in the crosshairs of many observers.

This is a move that many general managers wouldn’t have made. The truth is, the Saints probably could have signed a cornerback, plugged someone into the roster in place of linebacker Curtis Lofton, and competed for a playoff spot in the weak NFC South.

But that isn’t going to fly for Loomis. He wants to figure out how to get back to being a true contender. By acquiring center Max Unger and an additional first-round draft pick, he believes he’ll be able to better replenish his roster and move closer to achieving that goal.

2. Focus on defense: The Saints had one of the worst defenses in the NFL by most metrics. Simply adding a cornerback to last year’s mix of players would have helped improve things, but it would been simply placing a patch on things.

For sustained success, the group needs more young, impact players. Having two first-round picks gives the team the option of potentially adding two young players to the defense or the ability to move up in the draft for an elite talent.

There was no other way for the Saints to acquire another first-round pick. It hurts to lose Graham, who is one of the better offensive playmakers in the NFL when healthy, but there is a clear disparity between the two sides of the ball. Sometimes you have to sacrifice in one area to get better in another.

Now, of course, the key for New Orleans is making sure the right players are located in the draft. Otherwise, the beneficial possibilities of this road will not be remembered further down the road.

3. Offense will be OK: Things are going to be different on offense.

Graham creates mismatches and won his individual matchups like no one else on the roster last season. He was also one of New Orleans’ best red-zone options. A void has been created.

It’s a void that can’t be filled. Unless the Patriots decide to offer the Saints Rob Gronkowski in exchange for long snapper Justin Drescher, there isn’t another player in the NFL who can fill in for Graham.

That’s fine. The offense has to change now. And it will.

The receivers will have to step up and have to do more. And the running game will likely take on a bigger role. This trade, which brought back Unger, as well as the re-signing of Mark Ingram, signifies there could be a change in philosophy in how dedicate the team should be to running the ball.

The bottom line is: The Saints figured out how to move the ball before Graham arrived in 2010. New Orleans ranked in the top five in passing yards in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009.

The offense made it work then. It will make it work again.

4. No verdict: There’s been a rush to judgment on who won this trade. Maybe it looks better for Seattle today, but we won’t know who really came out on top for a number of years.

We have to see who the Saints draft and how that player develops. We also have to see how things go for Graham.

There’s been some talk locally that the Saints got out at the right time after Graham faded last season. Maybe those people are right. They also might be overlooking the fact that Graham played through a shoulder injury last season and could bounce back next season.

It’s possible New Orleans just traded Graham when his value was at its lowest.

It’s impossible to know the answers to these questions. Only time will tell.