Nearly every team in the NFL was represented today in Baton Rouge at LSU pro day, and much of the attention was paid to offensive lineman La'el Collins and cornerback Jalen Collins. La'el returned to LSU for his senior season and looks primed to capitalize on a really good year. "He's played guard before, but the question is, can he play tackle at the NFL level? I think he can," said LSU coach Les Miles.
Jalen Collins didn't particapate in Pro Day drills because of minor surgery on his foot to repair a stress fracture he sustained at the NFL scouting combine. Collins says he should be back at full strength in a few weeks. Saints defensive assistant Dennis Allen met with Collins today, and Jalen is also scheduled to visit with the Ravens and Jaguars next week.
The player that might have helped his case the most was RB Kenny Hilliard, running a solid 4.5 40 yard dash, trimming 3/10ths of a second of his previous time. Hilliard could be a nice selection for a team that is looking for a hard nosed between-the-tackles runner later in the middle rounds of the draft. Terrance McGee also had a solid showing, and one NFL scout says he reminded him a lot of former Saints RB Pierre Thomas, with his balance and excellent vision.
Linebacker Kwon Alexander didn't run the individual drills but executed the postional drills, and his former coach Les Miles says Alexander is a great fit in the NFL because his coverage skills. "If you need him to match up with a receiver, or running back in the passing game, he can do that. Kwon has the ability to be an 'every down' linebacker. I visited with Alexander briefly and he told me most of the scouts he's talked to feel like he's likely to go in the second round of the draft.
Jeff Ireland Texted Mickey Loomis when Ryan Pace left. Ireland "just keep me in mind".
For the first time since joining the Saints this off-season, assistant General Manager Jeff Ireland talked to the media. "Mickey (Loomis) has been a mentor of mine. He's a very good executive. He's someone I look up to. It's great to be part of a great organization," Ireland explained. Yeah, I know it is what he was supposed to say - but he also explained how he ended up with the Saints. "I saw that Ryan (Pace) was going to Chicago, I just sent Mickey a text that said 'just keep me in mind.' In the end we went to dinner to see if we were on the same page, and ultimately that's what it was," Ireland said.
Ireland also has intimate knowledge of linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. The Saints acquired Ellerbe in the Kenny Stills trade after Ireland originally signed him in Miami coming from Baltimore in 2013. Ireland said if they can keep him healthy, he'll be a productive player for the Saints. "He's a great person, good leader. If he gets back to full health he's going to be a productive player for this franchise," he added.
The Saints are in great position to bolster the defense with five picks in the first three rounds of the NFL draft.
Spencer was the 26th overall pick in the 2007 draft and went to Dallas, where he has been ever since. A memorable moment came for Spencer in this year's playoffs against the Detroit Lions - he is the player that forced a fumble in the fourth quarter that might have ended the game if DeMarcus Lawrence had not fumbled the ball while returning it.
Despite speculative reports that the Saints might be in all-out re-shaping mode, and that everything and every player might be on the trading block, general manager Mickey Loomis says that's not really the case. "We've never put a 'for sale' sign out on all of our players. That was never true, and isn't true," Loomis explained.
The Saints have fielded calls on a variety of things: "You get calls from teams all the time asking about certain players. We're always available to listen, but that doesn't mean we're trying to make wholesale roster changes," added Loomis. As for the talk surrounding the possibility of the Saints trading quarterback Drew Brees: "I haven't made a single call asking anybody about Drew Brees. That's just... some media members that have too much time on their hands that start coming up with these 'what if' scenarios!" Loomis quipped.
Sometimes where there is smoke there is fire, but I thought all along the Saints would have been completely foolish to trade Drew Brees this off-season. No doubt the Saints have been busy, adding two free agents (Brandon Browner and C.J Spiller) and acquiring two others via a trade. "We've got, ultimately, a list of somewhere between 19 and 20 items that we want to get accomplished in the off-season. I didn't think this year was any different than any other year, except there were a couple of moves involving good players," Loomis added.
The Saints are likely not finished re-shaping the team - armed with nine draft picks, that's a safe assumption - and it's still possible for a couple of veterans to be added or subtracted to or from the roster on or before the draft at the end of April and beginning of May.
Despite rumors to the contrary, the Saints say they are not looking to trade quarterback Drew Brees.
General Manager Mickey Loomis told the USA today, "Anyone that thinks we're trading Drew Brees, that is just not true."
It has also been reported that the Saints want to trade up in the draft to select Marcus Mariota:
New Orleans Saints: Picking 13th overall, and 31st overall, and with Drew Brees in what could be his last season in New Orleans and with Sean Payton remaking the team on the fly and making some shocking moves already (the Jimmy Graham trade, for one), getting a quarterback who looks like a tremendous scheme fit at a cheap price might be just want he needs.
The Saints have made some bold moves this offseason with a blockbuster trade of Jimmy Graham to start the offseason, but a proposed trade to move up to the second overall pick might teeter on the edge of boneheaded, not bold. I am on board with the idea that the Saints need to start thinking about the quarterback of the future. The move to No.2 overall for a shot at FSU's Jameis Winston or Marcus Marriota would be extremely expensive.
Right now the 2015 second overall pick carries a 2,600 point value on the draft pick trade chart originally developed by former Dallas Cowboys Coach Jimmy Johnson, and has since been revised by clubs. Using a chart similar to the current one, the Saints have a total of 1,150 points with their thirteenth overall pick in round 1 and additional 600 points with the 31st pick in round one acquired in the Jimmy Graham trade. The grant total points equals 1,750, which is 850 points south of where they would need to be to pull off a potential trade into that number two spot in the first round.
So with that, let's see what else the Saints would have to give up making up for the 850 point difference. The Saints 2nd (44th overall) round pick this year carries a point total of around 450 points. The Saints are now sitting 400 points shy of enough ammunition to make it happen. They've got two 3rd round picks at 11th (75th overall) and 14th (78th overall) in round 3. The 75th overall pick carries a point total of 215 points, and the 78th overall pick in round three carries a point total of 200 points.
We've finally arrived at the 2,600 point threshold needed for the Saints to potentially trade up to No. 2 overall. That would be really taxing to give up five draft picks to draft one player that you hope, and I say again hope - could be the QB of the future. If you draft a player that high, and that costly, he has to play right away. The Saints would go from 9 draft picks to 5. Oh by the way, in this scenario the Saints would also not pick again until the fifth round. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! This would border on the Ricky Williams trade level from Mike Ditka.
Let's look at the most recent trade for a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick. Back in 2012, the Washington Redskins engaged in a trade with the St. Louis Rams for a shot at Baylor's Robert Griffin III. The Redskins gave up a ton! St. Louis received the Skins 1st round pick (6th overall), Washington's 2013 and 2014 first round picks and their 2012 second round pick. OUCH! That bold move cost head coach Mike Shanahan his job one year later in 2013. Sure if RGIII and Skins won a super bowl Shanahan would still be employed and in all likelihood it would have been thought to be worth it. However, NFL coaches don't like to put their job on the line for an unknown at that position.
A trade like this would go against what I think I know about how Sean Payton views the quarterback position and how you construct a team. So what about the possibility of moving the two first round picks this season, and the team's first round pick in 2016? The Saints would probably have to throw in another pick, perhaps a second or third round pick as well. That's kind of counterproductive don't you think; especially when you consider the obvious need for more than just one impact player.
The Saints have traded up in the first round three times under Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis. In 2008, the Saints moved up in round 1 for DT Sedrick Ellis; in 2011 the team moved back into round 1 to draft running back Mark Ingram, and just last year the Saints moved up to draft WR Brandin Cooks. With Ellis' trade the Saints gave up a third rounder to move three spot; with Ingram the Saints gave up their 2012 first round pick, and last year with Cooks the team also mortgaged a 1st round pick and a third round pick. Loomis and Payton haven't been shy about rolling the dice in the first round. The trade last year allowed the Saints to move seven spots.
The Saints have way too many holes to fill, and trading up for a quarterback fills a future hole, not a current one. I understand Loomis and Payton might have begun to start thinking about life after Drew Brees - and rightfully so, but pulling off a trade like this would virtually ensure the two might not be around to see the fruits of their bold move if there were any to come out of it. With as many holes as the Saints have to fill on this current roster, it just doesn't pass the common sense test at all. Perhaps, the Saints can sit back and draft a quarterback of the future with the 31st pick, and then maybe I could get on board with that decision, all the while addressing needs such as Linebacker, Cornerback and offensive line with their other 8 picks. Going back to the 2010 draft, the Saints have selected 28 players; only 11 of those picks are still with the team. Let's compare New Orleans to the team they model their franchise after; the New England Patriots. New England has drafted 44 players in the same time span and still have 21 of those picks on their squad. Basic Math, more draft picks in your possession the higher the probability you will hit on some of those picks. The Saints need to play the odds, in an otherwise unpredictable and against the odd's proposition that is the NFL draft.
New Orleans has to start hitting and hitting big on first round picks. Since 2010, the Saints have had five first round picks, and while it's netted them solid players I don't think we could make the case it's brought them that impact player they've needed. WR Brandin Cooks has that potential; DE Cameron Jordan looked to be that player in 2013, but had a dip in production last year. RB Mark Ingram is a nice piece to the puzzle, but will never be a game changer. S Kenny Vaccaro had an outstanding rookie season, but was benched at the end of last season.
Here is the big X-Factor, what if Drew Brees were included in a trade that netted the Saints another number 1 pick? Well, throw in the towel, because the team is officially in rebuilding mode then. That would signal a dumpster fire, and I don't know that a complete rebuild is necessary for the Saints to contend this year. Why get rid of a franchise quarterback until you absolutely have to? Why roll the dice and your future at the expense of a proven commodity like Brees for a player that you hope could one day turn into the second coming of Brees?
If anything, you wait patiently to see if a team in front of you slips up and misses on a player (Mariota) and perhaps you draft him at 13 in round one. You've got what you hope is your quarterback of the future, and still have the ammunition to draft and fill holes on your roster.
Trading up to the No. 2 would be way too costly for a team that doesn't have a lot of equity, Both Winston and Mariota are not "lock" picks in the mold of Andrew Luck, and Peyton Manning. If Winston and Mariota were "locks," teams wouldn't be entertaining the idea of moving off that pick. Stay patient! The Saints have their QB, they just need to help him with other picks.
The more I think about it, the less this trade makes sense. Why trade Jimmy Graham if you are planning on drafting a rookie quarterback? Wait because he netted you some ammunition? Perhaps, but you could have kept him and just sent three first round picks to a team and kept Graham for your young signal caller. The Saints are banking on Brees' ability to make everyone around him better and that's why they were willing to part with Kenny Stills and Graham. A rookie wouldn't allow them to justify that thought process.
We've all been in this position before; I know I have said or written something I've regretted. Saints defensive back Keenan Lewis also regrets his Instagram rant of a week ago and is happy to have a new deal with the Black and Gold. "I'm a human being. I get scared sometimes, and it wasn't about the money. It was the promise because the love I had for my city, I just didn't want to go nowhere, that's it!" Lewis said when he appeared on Sports Talk with me and the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert. Lewis and the Saints reworked the final three years of his contract, guaranteeing $10.5 million dollars remaining.
Last week, Lewis drew the ire of Saints fans when he expressed his frustration over his contract on social media, and says it wasn't a great decision to post his feelings on Instagram. "I truly apologize, to the organization and the fans," he said, saying he was just trying to prove he's loyal to the team and to the city. "They got guys around the NFL that are all about the money. I am here to make a difference in my community. Leaving was definitely not an option," he explained.
I can certainly appreciate the honesty from Lewis recognizing that his rant on social media was regrettable. Lewis insists he was just trying to communicate how badly he wanted to be a part of turning things around for the Saints in 2015. "I never wanted to be on another team, even when I was drafted and ended up in Pittsburgh. I'm definitely playing for the fans down here... I'm just trying to make a difference," Lewis said.
As for the 2015 season, Lewis vows a bounce back year for the team and the defense. "We are definitely going to get it together. We are disappointed about the season we had last year. We know we're a better football team. Guys are working extremely hard this off-season building the chemistry that we need. I can promise you... we will be ten times better than we were last season," Lewis said.
I was exceptionally critical of the decision by Lewis to air his dirty laundry in a public forum last week, and I can certainly accept his apology. Can you?
To listen to the whole conversation between Lewis, Bobby and me, click the link below.
After taking to Instagram last week to display his displeasure with the team, and saying he wanted the final three years remaining on his contract guaranteed, the Saints reportedly accommodated their best play maker in the secondary. The NFL Network is reporting the Saints have restructured Keenan Lewis' contract giving him more guaranteed money over the remaining three years.
The details of the new contract haven't been released. New Orleans also should receive some cap relief with the restructure.
Lewis received plenty of criticism for going public over his contract demands last week, but it appears to have worked. The question now becomes - have the Saints set a dangerous precedent by acquiescing to his demands? Will other players take a similiar approach when they want to re-nogotiate their contracts? Not every player will be able to make the same demands in the future.
Keenan Lewis is the best player in the Saints secondary, and the Black and Gold couldn't go into 2015 without him. The Saints really had no choice but to make Lewis happy.
by Kristian Garic, email@example.com,,posted Mar 16 2015 6:58PM
The Saints have certainly had an interesting offseason. The frenzy started with the Jimmy Graham trade to Seattle for center Max Unger. Last week, cornerback Brandon Browner signed with the Saints. After the Black and Gold pursued Browner last year, he says it was the right time to join the Saints.
"I really liked the situation and stayed overnight without having to go visit other teams," he explained.
Twenty four hours after the Saints decided to trade Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks, Saints color analyst Hokie Gajan says it might bring the offense more into balance. "I'm still old-school, and like to run the ball a little bit more," Gajan said.
Make no mistake about it, as long as Drew Brees can still throw the Saints will be a pass-heavy team, but Hokie also points out that now Brees might have to spread it around even more: "Drew has always been really good at getting everyone involved in the offense, and he'll have to do it more without Graham, and that could be by handing the ball off more."
The Saints acquired Max Unger in the trade with Seattle, and that could signal a shift in philosophy: "They don't have to be like Seattle and run more than they pass or anything like that, but just balance it up a little bit," said Gajan.
On paper, sending Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks looks like a downgrade, but Hokie says it depends on how you look at it. "If they're making more of a commitment to the run, in a way they're better." Graham's biggest weakness was his run blocking ability, or lack thereof.
The biggest issue Hokie has with the trade is that the Saints strengthened an already very stout Seahawks team by sending Graham out west. "They're going to continue to be a running team, but now Graham gives them a lot more options." Lets see what Saints GM Mickey Loomis does with the pick he acquired from Seattle before we render total grade on this trade.
Graham Trade: The Saints pulled off the day 1 free agency shocker by trading tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks along with a 4th round pick in exchange for center Max Unger and a 2015 1st round pick. Wow! I'm dizzy!
The Graham trade signals that the Saints weren't happy with Graham's production last season, after getting a big contract last summer (4 years $41 million dollars). This wasn't a salary cap move; the Saints only netted $2 million dollars of cap space with the move. I wrote about this last year, most of you thought I was crazy, but with that money and that pick, the Saints can improve their team more than just one player.
Graham's value wasn't nearly as high as it was perceived last summer. The question now becomes, what will the Saints do with center Tim Lelito who was thought to be "the guy?" Perhaps the Saints are likely to move on from either Ben Grubbs or Jahri Evans at guard. The Saints have a chance to be a better team without Graham.
Offense: How will the Saints replace Graham's production? There is no doubt it will be tough to replace Graham, but in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, the Saints were ranked no lower than 4th in the NFL in total offense. With Jimmy Graham (since 2010) they've been ranked 1st two times, 2nd in 2012 and 4th in 2013. The trade signals a desire to improve the defense and get tougher as a team. Jimmy Graham was viewed as soft by some NFL players, and kind of one dimensional.
Draft: Armed with two first round picks this season, don't expect the Saints to make two picks in the first round. The Saints are likely trying to get into the top 10 to draft a particular player. Right now trying to figure out who that will be is difficult. The Saints might be thinking about packing those selections and moving up the board.
Keenan Lewis: The Saints best cornerback is apparently unhappy with the direction of the team and wants the final three years remaining on his contract guaranteed to him or he wants to be released. Lewis posted some of his thoughts on his Instagram on Tuesday. While Lewis might be unhappy with the team, I wouldn't expect the Saints to acquiesce to his demands.
Bush: Don't count out a possible return for running back Reggie Bush. I know it seems a bit odd, but I'm told both sides have a mutual interest in reuniting. Now the salary might not work, but sometimes where there is a will, there is a way to make it work. I was told "Reggie has a special place in his heart for New Orleans."
Tramon Williams: Cornerback is clearly a priority for the Saints in free agency or the draft. The Saints will take their time and visit with former Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams this week.
Cameron Jordan: The Saints reportedly shopped several of their players today as trade bait, but defensive end Cameron Jordan is not one of them. I was told by a source that the Saints have "no interest" in trading Cameron Jordan.
The Saints are now $2.4 million dollars under the salary cap. The Saints could trim significantly more money off the cap if they restructure or release veterans LB David Hawthorne, OG Jahri Evans, and OG Ben Grubbs.
Galette signed a four year contract extension last season.
The restructuring of Galette's deal, along with the release of Curtis Lofton and Pierre Thomas and the new contracts for Marques Colston and Jairus Byrd, shows the Saints are up to something in free agency. We just don't know exactly what that is right now.
Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton are targeting someone in free agency, likely on the defensive side of the football. I expect LB David Hawthorne to be the next salary cap casualty.
Going back to Galette for second, after his brush with the law in the off-season; the Saints were reportedly shopping him other teams but apparently found no takers.
I'm going to stop counting this team out as potential players in free agency, because once again these moves speak about a team that is hell bent on trying to win now and I expect them to be very active in free agency with more moves to come.
The Saints and RB Mark Ingram have agreed to terms on a four-year contract today ahead of Ingram becoming a free agent on March 10th. The terms of the deal were undisclosed.
Ingram enjoyed his best season as a Saint in 2014, rushing for 964 yards on 226 attempts. Ingram was set to become a free agent if the two sides were unable to reach an agreement before Tuesday.
I thought all along that it was 50-50 on whether or not Ingram returned to the Saints. In fact, the deal comes as a bit of surprise to me only because the depth at RB in the 2015 draft. As I mentioned, the terms of the deal were undisclosed, but I would venture a guess that the new contract will be around $4 million per year for Ingram.
The Saints traded up to get Ingram in 2011, and with the release of Pierre Thomas earlier in the week Ingram took on an added importance in the Black and Gold offense. Ingram made his first Pro Bowl appearance this past season, and had 9 touchdowns.
The Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert says he likes the decision to bring Ingram back: "He ran well last season, and he's really developed into an every-down running back." The Saints will likely look for a third down back to add to the mix, via the draft.
Very excited to stay a saint!! God has blessed me beyond belief!! I don't deserve his grace!! Thank you!!
The Saints continue to make roster moves, agreeing to terms with veteran safety Jamarca Sanford on a 1 year deal. Sanford's agent Drew Rosehaus confirmed the signing.
Sanford joined the Saints last season after a rash of injuries in the secondary. The Saints have been moving money all over the place for the last couple of days. Keep in mind the team doesn't have to be under the cap until March 10th at 3pm.
Saints WR Marques Colston has agreed to re-structure his contract, freeing up some cash for the team. Colston, a charter member of the Saints under Sean Payton, arrived in 2006 as a seventh round pick.
Colston was scheduled to earn a base salary of $6.9 million this year with bonuses pushing that cap figure to $9.7 million dollars. It's unclear just how much the Saints will trim off the cap, as they try and get underneath the $143.2 million dollar league wide salary cap by 3pm on March 10th.
The biggest free agent acquisition of the 2014 season, safety Jairus Byrd, has re-structured his contract. The Saints converted Byrd's $6 million dollar roster bonus into a signing bonus. New Orleans will shave $4.8 million dollars off the 2015 salary cap.
Byrd will now count for $5.5 million against the cap this season and the $6 million will be spread over the remaining five years of his contract his signed last March. The restructured deal was first reported by ESPN's Field Yates.
The Saints are still roughly $15.5 million dollars over the cap, and have until March 10th at 3pm to get under the league mandated $143.2 million dollar over-all cap for 2015. More roster moves are sure to follow before then.
The cash strapped Saints are trying to trim money off the 2015 salary cap, and the question becomes; is now the time for Drew Brees to come to the Saints rescue and take a pay cut? That's a bold statement, a bold idea, and some feel a necessity! I for one don't think he needs to volunteer to take less money.
I'm all about being a team player, don't get it twisted. Just spare me from the argument that Brees should approach the Saints about giving up some cash. That's silly! Peyton Manning didn't volunteer, the Broncos asked him.
The Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning restructured his contract and Manning took a pay cut. That's pretty rare in the NFL for elite quarterbacks, but Manning dropped his base salary from $19 to $15 million this year. I know! What's four million dollars? To me and you that's a lot of money; he's got enough money right? Well it's the world they live in; it's the same thing if you and I are getting paid in our job…what's the market value…what's the going rate for my services? You want fair compensation don't you?
So with that… the question becomes should Drew Brees do the same? Should he take a page out of Manning's playbook and take a pay cut? Brees counts for $26 million dollars against the cap this year, that's a ton for one player! By the way he has the highest base salary among starting QB's in the NFL.
Let's go back for a second on Manning's deal… he has four million incentive so he can re-coup some money if he leads the Broncos to an AFC championship game or a Super Bowl. It's a two way street in this argument. I mean we hear it all the time, if a player wants to renotiate his contract the argument is "hey you should honor your contract that you agreed to." Why isn't that argument thrown at NFL clubs when they sign guys to big contracts? Why doesn't that apply? Why shouldn't NFL teams honor their commitment? NFL contracts are not guaranteed like the NBA!
The Saints knew this cap would be this astronomical when they signed Brees to an extension in 2012… so how is that Brees's fault? "Be a team player," here comes that argument! He is your team player though. Without him you're 4 and 12 at best. Brees shouldn't go to the Saints and volunteer to take a pay cut. That's not his obligation!
Now if the Saints approach him and he won't restructure then maybe you have an argument.. then maybe he's not being a team player. If I'm Drew Brees… I'm waiting on the Saints to come to me. How many of you would go to your boss and say "Hey take some of my money to add this employee?" It's fine when it's not your money to say that, but when it IS your money I'd bet you feel different about it.
If your boss came to you and said hey, we would like to add a few more pieces to the company to make us more successful overall and make you more successful and pro-long your time here… I would be at least open to listening to that. I wouldn't like the possibility of losing money but I would at least be open to the possibility.
Brees should be open to the idea, but shouldn't have to approach the Saints about re-doing his deal. The Saints would be fair and right to approach him though.
NFL free agency is right around the corner. Typically the Saints haven't been big spenders in this time, aside from last off-season when they spent big money bringing in Jairus Byrd just hours into free agency. The Saints like the bargain players. I wouldn't expect Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis to throw a lot of money around in 2015, but they'll still have enough to add a couple of nice pieces.
The Saints have had pretty good success finding cornerbacks on the open market and I expect the team will look at that position in free agency to fill the void opposite of Keenan Lewis. Here a few players the Saints might target in free agency at the CB spot.
Perish Cox: (San Francisco) Could command a little more money than the Saints are willing to spend, but Cox would be a solid addition. He has nice size at 6'0 and 190 lbs. There is just something about San Francisco - they can develop CB's!
Davon House: (Green Bay) Was primarily a nickel and dime back for Green Bay, but is ready for a larger role. Corners get paid on the open market but he could be a good fit for the Saints. The exact kind of player they look at; a player with upside and something to prove.
Chris Culliver (San Francisco) See what I said above about Cox. San Francisco just produces CB's like the LSU Tigers produce DB's. He's coming off an ACL injury and that might be what drops his value in free agency. However, the Saints have been willing to roll the dice with injured players in the past.
Walter Thurmond (New York Giants) Signed a one year deal with New York last off-season in hopes of cashing in big this spring. Injuries have hampered his effectiveness, and would a high risk/reward player. He was a hot name tossed around last March, and the Saints considered adding him then. I wonder if they'll revisit that possibility for the right price.
The Saints won't have a ton of money to spend, but don't expect them to sit idle in free agency. New Orleans will likely let the free agency frenzy calm down a bit after the first few hours and let the market slow down and go find their bargain or two.
The Saints have informed running back Pierre Thomas he will be released by the March 10th deadline for teams to be under the $143 million dollar salary cap figure. Thomas arrived to the Saints as an un-drafted free agent out of Illinois in 2007, and was a clutch player for the Saints during his 8 year run in New Orleans.
Thomas restructured his contract in 2014 and proved expendable after missing five games last season with a chest injury. The Saints are $22 million over the salary cap, and need to find money anywhere they can get it. Thomas was particularly adept at running the screen play for the Saints, cashing in on several big plays including a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIV against the Colts. He is the first player in Saints history to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
The "PT Bruiser" as he was affectionately known by the fans, rushed for 222 yards on 45 carries last season and 2 rushing Touchdowns. His best season as a Saints running back came in 2011 when he carried the ball 147 times for 793 yards and 6 touchdowns
I know it's hard for fans to say goodbye to favorite players, but it's necessary in order to try and retool the Saints roster for 2015. If this move hurt your feelings, you might want to stay off the internet or away from the radio/tv for a few days because there are more coming. Several players could be on the chopping block including offensive linemen Jahri Evans, Ben Grubbs, Marques Colston. To improve, you have to part ways with the fan favorite players - it's unfortunately a part of the NFL.
For the record - releasing Thomas is the right move, considering the options the Saints will have at running back in the draft this year. The running back position is so undervalued by NFL teams, the Saints likely feel they can get the same production out of a cheaper, younger rookie.
Which position is the highest priority of need for the Saints to address this off-season? Is it cornerback or offensive line (guard)? You could make an solid argument for either one, and originally I thought it was offensive line. However, my partner T-Bob Hebert has swayed me just a bit.
I originally felt like the guard position was one the Saints should value as the top priority. T-Bob feels that cornerback is top position of need: "Just look how bad the Saints were last year on 3rd down. Every team looked opposite of Keenan Lewis when they needed a conversion on 3rd down. They went after the other cornerback and converted way too often," T-Bob explained. The Saints were abysmal in getting off the field on 3rd down last season, and he brings up a great point. The cornerback position is the highest priority this off-season.
Where will the Saints turn to address that need? If you look at the hstory under Sean Payton, you should be able to find the answer. Likely it will be free agency. The Saints haven't had a lot of success at cornerback in the draft, yielding players such as Patrick Robinson (1s round in 2011) and Corey White (5th round in 2012). Neither of aforementioned players has exactly solidified their place as the Saints answer at cornerback. New Orleans drafted Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the second round last year, and he rarely saw the field.
Look for the Black and Gold to try to sign a cornerback in free agency, which starts on March 10th. Jabari Greer and Keenan Lewis, two of the most successful CB's to play for the Saints under Payton have come via free agency - not the draft.
In addressing the offensive line need, the Saints might be better served finding a player in the later stages of the draft. Once again history serves as the best prognosticator of the Saints future here. Aside from Charles Brown, the Saints have typically drafted offensive lineman linemen in the middle to late rounds. Terron Armstead, the current starter at left tackle was selected in the third round, Zach Strief, the starter at right tackle is a 7th round pick. New Orleans has had tremendous success finding O-linemen late in the draft. Jahri Evans was a fourth round selection. Jermon Bushrod who started for the Saints in 2009 through 2011 landed with New Orleans via a 4th round selection.
I could rattle off a few more here but I won't bore you with the draft history. Depending on how the Saints address the cornerback position, the Saints could be in the market to draft an offensive lineman or two in the upcoming NFL draft at the end of April and beginning of May.