The Who Dat Nation let out a big exhale Tuesday morning when Jimmy Graham signed a 4 year $40 million dollar deal with the Saints. Crisis averted. No worries now that Drew Brees' top target will be absent when the team reports for training camp on July 24th.
Just how essential is Graham to the Saints? Over the last three seasons, he has led all NFL players (wide receivers and tight ends) with 36 touchdown catches. He's also racked up 3,507 yards receiving in that span, helping Brees achieve 3 straight years of 5,000+ yards passing.
Graham just may be the 2nd most important player on this roster. But who else makes up the Saints core? You know; the guys this ballclub cannot do without? Brees and Graham are obviously the foundation, and here are a few others:
DE Cameron Jordan: One word for Cam…STUD! A physical specimen at 6-ft-4, 287 pounds, combined with elite ability, translates into a defensive end you want around for a looooooong time. The team just picked up the 5th year of his rookie contract, but after the 2015 season, we could be in store for another Brees/Graham contract standoff. Sure would be nice if the team extend him before then, but it's just not the way GM Mickey Loomis and Co. operate.
S Jairus Byrd: While we haven't seen him in action yet, the Saints are banking that Byrd is top notch safety for the next 6 seasons after giving him $54 million. Players of his caliber don't often wind up on the free agent market, and the Black & Gold swooped in under the radar to nab him when the signing period opened. His penchant for picking off passes have earned him "ballhawking" status in the league, and is exactly what the doctor ordered for a Saints defense that struggled to create takeaways a year ago.
WR Marques Colston: Now don't give me any flack here, saying he's past his prime and on the decline. Sure, Colston didn't register 1,000 yards receiving in 2013 for only just 2nd time in his career, but he has been quite consistent year in and year out. He is still a go-to-guy for Brees, and one of the best at helping the team convert a 3rd and long. Crazy as it may seem, the "Quiet Storm" has never earned a spot on the Pro Bowl's roster; but he holds the Saints franchise record for TD receptions with 63. It will be a sad day when the 9 year vet decides to hang up the cleats for good.
OG Jahri Evans: Like Colston, he may be on the downside of his career but is still one of the best in the game at his position. His job is pretty damn important too; protecting Brees. We saw the entire O-line have issues last year as Evans struggled, playing through injury. If you look at his resume, Evans was a first team All-Pro from 09-12 and despite being hurt still managed to make the 2nd team last season.
Three more young guns with core potential: S Kenny Vaccaro, DE/DT Akiem Hicks, & OT Terron Armstead.
Well folks, my summer vacation is already underway, but it looks like Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans has beaten me to the fun at the pool.
Besides the sweet windmill jam; you see that form on that jumper from the shallow end? MONEY!
Evans is entering year two of his four-year, $44 million dollar deal with the Pelicans, and is hoping his late season surge earns him a starting gig this coming year instead of being the team's 6th man.
Keep up that pool game Reke, I'm about to join ya!
Remember the relentless coverage of Drew Brees' contract squabble with the Saints back in 2012? Well, buckle up folks, because the Jimmy Graham show is in town this year, and it has a lot more question marks and room for speculation than Brees' deal did.
Act One of the soap opera just came to a close. Graham was ruled a tight end by an arbitrator for the sake of the franchise tag. He wanted to be considered a wide receiver since that tag amount was worth $12.3 million, while the TE tag is $7 million for the year.
OK, so he's a tight end. Easy peezy, lets get a long term deal worked out, right? Ahh, not so fast. Graham still has a 10-day window to appeal the arbitrator's decision to a 3 member panel. As of right now, we still dont know his plans, as Graham's camp has been quiet since the ruling.
This presents a new problem, because the clock is ticking to get a long term contract worked out and the deadline to do so is July 15th. If the two sides don't come to an agreement by then, Graham would have to play under the one year franchise tag or (dramatic pause) choose to sit out the season. Sitting out doesnt seem like a likely option, though, since Graham would be leaving a $7 millon dollar stack of cash on the table. According to the NFL Network, negotiations between the Saints and Graham's agent are at GROUND ZERO! Basically meaning the two sides are starting all over, back to square one.
But wait, that's not all! Tell 'em what else we have, ProFootballTalk.com! Well now that the Saints have a starting point for contract talks for Jimmy Graham, so do other teams. Would another ballclub really part ways with two first round draft picks for a tight end? And could one of the teams be the hated Atlanta Falcons who just had their Pro Bowl TE retire? Whew, I dunno about you folks, but I need a cocktail.
To recap: We need to find out now if Graham will appeal the arbitrator's ruling. If he does, who knows how long the panel will take to make a decision. Getting a long term contract worked out by the 15th would be very difficult is he goes this route,
If Graham accepts the arbitrator's ruling, he and the Saints could be negotiating right now trying to get that multi-year deal worked out. Tick-tock, tick-tock!
While not good news for Graham, it is great news for the Saints. Instead of having to worry about finagling with the salary cap ramifications of their TE now being ruled a WR with a tag of $12.3 million, it remains at $7 million.
Graham may decide to appeal this ruling, but I'm guessing it won't make a difference. The NFL does not want the players following suit in the fututre.
You are what you are! Graham was drafted as a tight end, went to the Pro Bowl as a tight end, is in Saints meetings as a tight end, oh, and on his twitter profile… he calls himself a tight end!
But something has really bothered me from the onset, and that's why did the Saints let it get to this point? It seems so simple to have extended Jimmy before the start of last season.
I guess if GM Mickey Loomis and the rest of the Saints front office were willing to drag out contract talks with future Hall of Famer, Super Bowl MVP and franchise face Drew Brees; taking this route with Graham shouldn't be a surprise to me.
I just feel though that you are spending more money in the long run by not locking up your key, core players until their deal is up. The Saints should have extended Brees before the 2011 season and "shoulda-woulda-coulda" extended Graham at the beginning of last year.
The way the team does business, it seems as if we'll be headed down this road in 2016 when Cameron Jordan's rookie deal is up.
With no selections in this year's NBA Draft, it was uncertain if the Pelicans would be making any moves to get back in. The first round dragged on with no action from New Orleans, but GM Dell Demps dialed up a familiar trade partner in the 76ers to obtain the 47th overall pick Russ Smith out of Louisville.
New Orleans sent back to Philly the rights to Pierre Jackson, who was part of the Jrue Holiday draft night trade last year with the Sixers.
The Pelicans net a point guard who averaged 18.2 points, 4.6 assists and 2 steals per game for the Cardinals last year while earning First Team All-American honors. He is also known as a staunch defender, which Pels head coach Monty Williams will absolutely love.
One thing is for sure about Smith: he feels slighted by being passed over by so many ballclubs and will enter his rookie campaign in New Orleans with a huge chip on his shoulder. DraftExpress.com had him rated as the 28th best overall player in the draft, which would have made him a late 1st round draft pick. Hopefully the others teams' neglect winds up being the Pelicans fortune!
It doesn’t seem as if draft night in the NBA will be very eventful for the home team as the Pelicans do not hold a 1st or 2nd round pick. Their first rounder was sent to the Sixers as part of last year’s draft day trade for point guard Jrue Holiday and what ended up being the rights to Pierre Jackson. The 5 ft 10 point guard out of Baylor played in the Developmental League and in Turkey last year.
But wait! GM Dell Demps has reportedly been working the phones trying to jump back into this year’s draft as he could be feeling the hot seat to field a ballclub that can make it to the postseason:
Pelicans aggressively trying to trade into 1st round in hopes of drafting a small forward or center, sources say.2014 1st dealt in Jrue deal
Small forward is the definitely the glaring need for this ballclub as they seem to have addressed the center position (see below). The biggest issue last season was injuries. The roster was decimated losing key players like to Holiday, Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith with season ending injuries early on. Even Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon missed time at least 10 games each. So obviously health is really the teams’ biggest need this season.
As for trading back into the NBA draft, I’m not quite sure what assets the Pelicans would be willing to offer that would appeal to another team. The rumors of Jrue Holiday being on the block seem ludicrous to me as I believe he is a key part of the franchise building a champion. Trading him would be like saying the franchise made a mistake last year by dealing away two first rounder’s for him.
Another name frequently mentioned is Ryan Anderson. I don’t see this happening either, for two reasons: 1) His 3 point shooting ability was sorely missed a year ago and the Pels are just a better team WITH him. The threat of the long ball really opens up things inside for Davis. 2) Anderson’s status is still a bit of a question mark. He suffered a serious back injury, had surgery and will hopefully be back to his normal self come the start of camp, but it’s still an unknown. That’s a big red flag for teams interested in him and I don’t think New Orleans would be able to recoup his true value.
Don’t even mention Eric Gordon. While fans and the team would love to deal the often injured shooting guard, no one is willing to take on the reaming two years of his max money contract. It seems as if we are stuck with Gordon, like it or not. The Pelicans may regulate him to the role of 6th man since Tyreke Evans thrived when put in a starting role.
That really leaves Pierre Jackson and future draft picks as the remaining ammunition. Jackson played well in the D-League and overseas. He caught the attention of the basketball world when he set an NBA Development League record with 58 points in a game and is chomping at the bit for his chance in the pros.
And as for future picks, Yahoo Sports reported late last night that the Pels with be sending a protected 2015 1st round draft pick to the Houston Rockets for center Omer Asik. The Rockets are also sending over $1.5 million to New Orleans as part of the deal.
This move gives the team the big man they’ve been searching for to pair up with All-Star Antony Davis. Asik is 7 feet tall, 255 pounds and is a staunch defender and elite rebounder. The deal cannot become official until July due to league rules.
King James has 2 rings but he and the Miami Heat were demolished in the NBA Finals in 5 games this year by the Spurs. San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich decided he would count his actual championships at their victory parade yesterday.
Atlanta is hurting at the inside linebacker position after losing Sean Weatherspoon to a ruptured Achilles earlier this month, and may look at Vilma for some depth.
The former Saint turns 32 years old in April, and has battled knee injuries for much of career. He spent all but one week on injured reserve last season.
Vilma will come cheap, and the 3 time Pro Bowler would add some veteran leadership to a relatively young linebacking corp. He really isn't a good option for production on the field though, but the Falcons must be pretty desperate at this point.
Vilma signing with the ATL will only add to the hype when the Saints face the Falcons week one in the Georgia Dome.
Even with the departure of Darren Sproles, the Saints running back corp remains loaded with talent this year. Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson headline the group, while Travaris Cadet is entering his 3rd year with the team, and is looking to expand upon his role, which has been limited thus far.
Out of the four guys I just mentioned, only Ingram was selected in the NFL draft. The other three are all undrafted free agent finds by the team.
“It’s just like Coach Payton says; it doesn’t matter how you get here, it’s what you do when you are here,” says Cadet. “It’s all about gaining respect in the locker room and from the coaches.”
So far, Cadet has really just been involved with special teams on the Saints. He has acted as a returner and also covered on kicks. But, now that Sproles is gone, Cadet could easily be that pass receiving threat out the backfield.
“I just try and take advantages of my opportunities. You know, I’m here for a reason; I’m not here by mistake. I don’t want to waste any days, because the day that you waste you can never get back.”
Now, Cadet is a much bigger player then Sproles. He stands 6 ft 1, 210 pounds, but has a similar skill set. He is fast, elusive and a great pass receiving threat out the backfield.
So, could Cadet run basically the same plays as Sproles?
“I think a year ago, I don’t know that I would have been able to tell you that,” Coach Sean Payton responded. “The focus for him was the running game per se. That element with regards to running routes and catching the football, he would be further ahead, but we saw him last year as a guy who transitioned into someone that we handed the ball to. That’s something he’s worked hard on. He’s a guy with good hands, he’s sudden with a good change of direction, and I think that is one of the things we’ll look for in this upcoming training camp. He’s been able to do a lot of the things we’ve asked Darren to do in the passing game. You just keep building on that. He’s a good young talent.”
Cadet hasn’t seen much action in 2 years in Black and Gold though. He has just one carry - one career carry - for 5 yards, with 7 receptions for 49 yards and 1 touchdown. His standout performances in organized team activities and mini-camp need to carry over into the preseason in order for him to have any hope a gaining a more active role in the offense.
Cadet seems ready of the challenge though.
“I feel like if you dedicate yourself to whatever you do in life, you put the overtime in and you don’t get complacent though success and through hard times, you’ll be the player God wants you to be.”