The New Orleans Saints do not need to force this draft. I repeat: The New Orleans Saints do not need to force this draft!
It would be a far more egregious mistake to take a huge risk for a player the team believes can contribute immediately in 2014 than to let the draft come to them and take whoever the best player available on their draft board is at pick number 27.
That’s because the Saints are far from desperate. As draft analysts define needs, the Saints have maybe one. Center is the only spot the team really has a need, and there are zero first round centers in this draft.
That player will most likely be found in rounds three through five.
The Saints have as deep a roster already as any in the National Football League. Only Seattle and San Francisco compare.
And the Saints are stacked at almost every position. They have three quality starting safeties for crying out loud! Victor Butler might not even start at outside linebacker — and that’s without even factoring in the possibility that the Saints could draft an outside linebacker in the first round.
Despite trading Darren Sproles the Saints are a quality four-deep at the running back spot. Broderick Bunkley took a significant pay cut this offseason because he’ll be a backup at defensive tackle this season behind John Jenkins and working alongside at times Akiem Hicks.
This team is deep and filled with quality at nearly every spot.
But, there remain question marks for the future. And that’s why this draft is oh so important for Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton.
It may sound like an obvious statement, especially for the well-informed sports fan. It’s always better to restock efficiently with younger, less expensive talent. There’s a reason the phrase, “Build through the draft” has gained such traction over the years.
It’s the way the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers have sustained excellence for nearly the entirety of their respective franchises. Though the Saints have had great success in the draft, and in hand-selecting college free agents, it hasn’t been the M.O. in the Loomis-Sean Payton-era.
And at some point it will catch up to them. Free agents are great because they’re proven players at the pro level. But they also cost more, especially in the new CBA.
Even re-signing your own players costs more than it used to. Jimmy Graham is likely to become the second Saint to sign a contract with a total value over $100 million (or at least some have speculated as much).
The Saints picked up Cameron Jordan’s fifth-year option two weeks ago, which means he’s on the books at an affordable rate through 2015. After that: he’s going to command a hefty sum of cash.
Junior Galette won’t be cheap either. And if Mark Ingram can put it all together in 2014, re-signing him would cost a few dollars as well.
The point is pretty simple: The Saints already have a lot of large contracts. At some point there are going to be some casualties. We know Mickey “The Wizard” Loomis was able to arrange all the deals to get under the cap for 2014.
But in 2015, someone will likely have to go to do it again. In 2016, same thing.
But as already mentioned, younger, less expensive players can be had in the draft. Junior Galette isn’t going anywhere, but who is going to start next to him in 2015? At this point, there isn’t a player ready to take that mantle.
Champ Bailey signed a two-year deal to compete for the starting corner job opposite Keenan Lewis. In 2015, Bailey will almost assuredly be a bench player if he even makes the squad. Corey White is clearly best as a nickel. And Patrick Robinson will be an unrestricted free agent. Who steps into that spot? Maybe, just maybe [insert first- or –second round draft pick].
The Saints brought in a member of the Super Bowl team, Jonathan Goodwin, earlier this offseason to potentially play center. They did not sign him, but he remains a free agent. Likely they wanted to give the appearance that they’re leaving their options open in this draft.
My guess: regardless of what happens in this draft — save the Saints making a monumental mistake of drafting a center in the first round — that Goodwin is signed a week after the draft, given every opportunity start in 2014 and then replaced in 2015 by whichever player the team drafts somewhere between rounds three and five.
I’m as big a fan and supporter of Marques Colston as exists. But he is 30 years old now, costs $8.3 million against the cap and that number only increases in the two subsequent years after this one.
By 2016, Colston is scheduled to cost the Saints $10.5 million against their cap. Jimmy Graham will just be hitting his prime. Kenny Stills may have established himself as one of the better number two receivers in the league.
In other words, as harsh as it sounds, Colston will not be needed — especially with that cap hit. And by releasing him before the 2016 season, it would only cost the Saints $2.7 million in dead cap space, as opposed to $5.4 million if they released him prior to the 2015 season.
The point is this: Colston probably has two more seasons in New Orleans before he’s gone. That means the Saints have two years to find a future number one receiver to take his spot [insert first-, -second or –third round draft pick].
Receivers often take more time to develop than the other skill positions and the positions where work is done primarily in the trenches. That player needs to be drafted this year.
Truthfully the list goes on from inside linebacker to second tight end all the way even to finding Drew Brees’ replacement (though admittedly not as urgent as some make it).
The Saints are in great position as it stands right now for 2014. This draft isn’t going to change that. But they’re not set up as well for 2015 and beyond.
That’s what this draft is for in New Orleans. Be smart Mickey Loomis, your franchises’ future depends on it.