By Casey Gisclair
I learned a lot of things about the world of sports this past week.
From Wednesday-Saturday, I attended the LHSAA Top 28 Tournament for Louisiana prep basketball and learned that there are some really stinkin’ good high school basketball players in the Pelican State. Like scary good – playing above the rim with ease kind of good.
In between that, I watched the LSU men’s basketball team and learned that the Tigers are complete and utter trolls who will do any and everything possible to keep fans on the edges of their seats. A loss to Auburn? Give me a break. LSU has a good NCAA Tournament draw. Villanova is beatable. This, of course, means the Tigers will fall handily to NC-State in their first game. It’s inevitable. That’s such an LSU thing to do.
And in the world of football, I learned that executives within the New Orleans Saints’ front office think that the team’s roster last season was a complete and utter mess. To General Manager Mickey Loomis and company, it was seemingly a group that needed a total overhaul to compete in the future.
What the Saints have done in the past several days is really sort of unprecedented within the history of the NFL – a league where the offseason is usually quite vanilla because of the franchise tag.
The Saints have changed everything.
Of course, the biggest move was the decision to trade elite tight end Jimmy Graham to Seattle in a move that brought in center Max Unger and a first round draft pick to New Orleans.
To stereotypical Saints fan, this move was celebrated because Graham didn’t perform well in the first year of his big contract, which, of course, has to mean that Graham is just rich and mailing it in, right?
The Graham trade is a big risk because he’s a truly dominant player who is in his prime. Yes, Graham struggled last season, but he was playing hurt. With Seattle, there is a very real chance that Jimmy will return to form and be dominant. If he does, the best team in the NFC just got better.
The haul the Saints got for Graham is pretty good. Unger is a solid center, and a first round pick is a great grab. But trading away a dominant touchdown scoring receiver in his prime is a huge risk. To me, I wish the Saints would have taken a little bit of a lesser haul from someone else – just to keep Jimmy away from Seattle.
But the Graham trade was just the tip of the iceberg for a New Orleans team that showed all throughout last week that it’s committed to getting younger in a hurry.
The Saints cut linebacker Curtis Lofton and halfback Pierre Thomas. Thomas is old and was a non-factor in the big picture scheme of things. But Lofton was arguably New Orleans’ best player on defense. He, too, will be difficult to replace both on the field and in the locker room.
The Saints also shipped young receiver Kenny Stills and offensive lineman Ben Grubbs away, acquiring draft picks for both guys.
Of course for all of the debits that New Orleans has endured, there have been a few credits, as well. The Saints signed a much-needed second cornerback in Brandon Browner. New Orleans also snagged halfback C.J. Spiller from the Bills.
But are Max Unger, Brandon Browner, C.J. Spiller and a ton of draft picks better than Jimmy Graham, Ben Grubbs, Pierre Thomas, Kenny Stills and Curtis Lofton?
Time will tell. Truth is, it all depends on the picks.
If the Saints strike hot iron in the 2015 NFL Draft, expect New Orleans to be in a position to win the offseason in a big way.
But if they don’t, it seems like all the team did in the offseason is spin its wheels and position itself for another 7-9 run.
If that happens, expect a repeat cycle next offseason, except it may be quarterback Drew Brees who gets shipped out of town.
Man, oh man, wouldn’t that be a crummy day?
Make the picks count, guys. The future relies on those selections.