Good thing the NBA trading deadline has passed.
If not, the Pelicans might be trying to deal Anthony Davis.
After the way things went last week on the football side of things at 5800 Airline Hwy., it wouldn’t have been that surprising.
Amazing that just seven days ago we were questioning whether Mark Ingram was worth the four-year, $16 million contact the Saints had given him to stay in the fold.
By Friday, Ingram was the second-highest paid running back on the team. C.J. Spiller, ostensibly Ingram’s backup, is getting $2 million more over the same time frame. That’s even though Spiller missed nine games last year with a broken collarbone and has had a career that makes the much-maligned Ingram look Canton bound by comparison.
Speaking of Canton, wonder who will be presenting Jimmy Graham for induction in 2030? Pete Carroll?
Or maybe all of those leaks about Graham being soft will prove true, and he’ll be remembered for playing more like Bill Gates than Antonio Gates.
Only in the NFL, where no rumor is out-of-bounds.
Have you heard the one that Mickey Loomis, Dennis Lauscha and Gayle Benson have realized that the Three Rs eventually are going to win control of Tom Benson’s teams, so out of spite they’re deliberately gutting the Saints with the Pels up next?
Or that while he was in New Orleans on Saturday to pick up the Manning Award, Marcus Mariota was told by Saints officials that they were planning to trade Drew Brees and their two first-round draft picks to Tennessee in order to get the Oregon quarterback?
OK, those are a little bit out there. In fact, we made them up.
But things have gotten so wild that in one 24-hour span, Keenan Lewis could declare, “I think it’s time for me to take my talent somewhere else,” supposedly be on the trade block, then supposedly be reworking his deal to give him more guaranteed money and then wind up saying, “Leaving was never an option. I love it (New Orleans) too much. Who Dat!”
Man, how did players game the system like this before there was social media?
But it could be Lewis is one of the few in Black & Gold who comes out ahead in all of this.
That’s because he’s getting his money while the future of the team looks cloudy.
One way or the other, in the past week the Saints have parted ways with six regulars from a year ago.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing (see White, Corey), but there’s no way you profit from losing a talent like Graham. Yes, he was not the locker room leader he should have been, and the questions about his toughness have to have some basis in truth.
But Graham also is a unique receiver whose possibility level with Brees had yet to be fully explored.
That Graham was deemed tradable was a fact known only in the highest echelons of the organization. Not just the players, but assistants were shocked.
Along with the trade of Kenny Stills to Miami and the cutting of Pierre Thomas, plus other roster moves, the Saints have shed themselves of 48 percent of last season’s receiving yards.
The other deletions were financially unavoidable. But Curtis Lofton and Ben Grubbs were serviceable players, and, on a team supposedly lacking in leadership and maturity, should have possessed both.
And what have the Saints gotten in return?
Well, so far, a big bag of damaged goods.
- Center Max Unger — missed 10 games because of injury last season, and Seattle deemed its one-time All-Pro expendable.
- Cornerback Brandon Browner — An original Legion of Boomer who got a second Super Bowl ring last season with the Patriots. But he also has two drug abuse suspensions in his folder, which puts him on the NFL’s version of double-secret probation.
- Spiller — A one-time top-10 pick who’s had one really good season out of five and who rushed for only 300 yards in the nine games he did play in 2014.
- Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe — A member of Baltimore’s Super Bowl championship team who had a disappointing 2013 season after signing with Miami (ranked 50th among 55 inside linebackers according to Pro Football Focus) and missed all of last year with a hip injury.
Ellerbe was signed to the Dolphins by the since-fired Jeff Ireland, the Saints’ new director of college scouting.
Feel free to put them all on your fantasy team wish list.
Of course, there are the draft picks. The Saints have nine of them, maybe 10, if the compensatory one that projects to put them in line to get Mr. Irrelevant comes through.
Given the team’s recent success rate in the draft, he could turn out be as productive as anyone chosen earlier.
Two of last year’s six picks have already been cut and second-rounder Stanley Jean-Baptiste is a project at cornerback, a position where the Saints need production, not projection. Only Brandin Cooks figures to start.
Out of the previous seven drafts before ’14, just nine players remain with the Saints.
The large number of picks for this year do give the team flexibility.
So look for the Saints to package them to move up rather than use them all, or deal for more next year. That’s been their habit of late, so at least there’s some history there.
And, rather than looking at each move individually, it’s best to look at them as part of an overall plan to keep the team in playoff contention (which, given the continued weakness of NFC South shouldn’t be too hard) and prepare for the future, including a (gulp) Drew Brees-less one.
So expect more of the unexpected between now and draft day.
Loomis, plus by extension Payton, are working with a high degree of job security given Loomis’ effectively being in the (current) ownership group. So while tanking is anathema in the NFL, they’re not going all-in on the here-and-now as was the case last year.
But, also, that’s why as of today Tom Benson’s basketball team looks a lot closer to the playoffs than his football one.