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Kristian Garic

Saints Sideline Reporter

"Double Coverage" Co-Host
Weekdays 6am-9am on 3WL 1350-AM

Twitter: @kristiangaric1
Email: kristian@3wl1350.com
Posts from February 2014


Kristian: Saints to use franchise tag on Graham

No surprise, but the Saints will use the franchise tag on Tight End Jimmy Graham before Monday's deadline, according to a league source.


It's expected Graham will file a greivance with the league about whether or not he should be tagged as a tight end or wide receiver, and the NFL will decide which tag will apply.

 

READ MORE: Kristian: Trading Graham may be the Saints' best move

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Kristian: Trading Jimmy Graham may be Saints' best move

Tune in to "Sports Talk" today from 4pm to 8pm to hear Kristian and Bobby discussing possible Graham trade!

What if I told you the Saints should franchise tag tight end Jimmy Graham then promptly trade him?  Blasphemy? Hardly. Graham is one of a select few players in the NFL today who is worth at least a first round draft pick and is not a quarterback. What player is more replaceable than Jimmy Graham? Yep you heard me, replaceable!  The NFL Draft class of 2014 is chock-full of talent at wide receiver and tight end.  Don’t forget, the Saints found Graham in the third round.  And Seattle won the Super Bowl without a dominant tight end with wide receiver skills.


 


What is the greater need; a tight end who plays receiver, or help on the offensive line?  Maybe a cornerback who can cover to play opposite Keenan Lewis? Or, perhaps another dynamic pass rusher like Khalil Mack out of Buffalo in the draft? Losing twice to the Seattle Seahawks probably taught this coaching staff some valuable lessons, and one thing we know is that Sean Payton learns fast.  Defense -- the kind of defense Seattle plays -- will win more than it will lose.  Seattle validated its defensive model in 2013. 

The Saints should spend their money elsewhere.  They have a franchise quarterback who needs offensive line help.  Thirty-seven sacks last season prove there’s room for improvement in this unit.  Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, and Darren Sproles would like to see some sort of upgrade in the front five too.  Re-signing Jimmy Graham may mean the Saints couldn’t retain one of two veteran free agents along the offensive line. That’s not good.  

So let's think this through. Where is Graham’s real value? He presents matchup problems for the defense in the passing game. But just like a center in basketball, Graham needs someone to create scoring opportunities for him. He isn’t the offense; he makes the offense better… much better.  Jimmy's not a requirement, but a luxury.  For a while, I've said Graham needs to be paid.  The question on the table now is, should it be the Saints who pay?  The Saints just might be better served by a Jimmy Graham trade for a first round pick, maybe even a first and third or fourth. 

The salary cap presents a number of challenges for GMs and coaches who would love to retain superior talent while shoring up the weaknesses of their teams.  With the exception of the quarterback position, and in the Saints’ situation, specifically Drew Brees, nearly every other position can be viewed as replaceable, interchangeable. As an aside, the recent CBA seems to have done more to shorten the long-term prospects for veteran players, who seemingly deserve to be highly paid, but find themselves on teams who can no longer afford to pay them.  It’s almost a situation where too much individual success leads to being released because retaining them is unaffordable. 

Some team will pay Jimmy Graham. He deserves a big pay day. I’m just not sure it should be the Saints.  The 2014 NFL Draft promises to be one of the richest in recent draft history, and for the price, those rookies are a bargain.  Seattle and San Francisco are repeating their draft harvests of recent seasons.  Russell Wilson’s contract pays him less than a million a year!  

Loomis, Payton, et al., are among the best talent evaluators in the league.  That’s a fact.  I can’t help but believe a Graham trade is a real possibility in their thinking. The organization would surely come under criticism for letting an All Pro tight end leave the building. However, elite tight ends don't win championships.  Elite QB's and defenses do. The Saints won their lone Super Bowl with an aging Jeremy Shockey at tight end.

The Saints would be better served trading Graham and reinforcing the offensive line, defense and wide receiving corps.  Let someone else overpay for a tight end who isn't much of a factor in the running game and sometimes disappears in big games.  Against Seattle in the divisional round of the post-season in 2014, Graham was targeted 6 times with just 1 catch.  Graham has accounted for 41 touchdowns in his four seasons with New Orleans.  That number could just as easily have been spread out between three or four players.

In the final 8 regular season games of 2013 Jimmy Graham only surpassed the 100 yard receiving mark once. Let me say that again. Jimmy had one 100 yard game in the final eight regular season games in 2013.  What's more, in the final five games of the regular season Graham failed to reach the 100 yard receiving yardage threshold.  It’s worth thinking twice before awarding him top tight end/receiver money.

Graham played in two playoff games in January.  He tallied a whopping 4 receptions for 52 yards and zero touchdowns.  So, in ten straight games he failed to go over the 100 yard mark.  Far from clutch.  He's freakishly talented, but would his value be any higher to the Saints than right now?  

Pull the trigger.  Make the trade and make the team better.  Jimmy Graham is excellent, but not a franchise changer.  The Saints already have that player...Drew Brees.  The Saints can add by subtracting with Jimmy. 
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Kristian: Boring Olympic Games in need of overhaul
I have to confess, I’ve watched maybe 5 minutes of the Winter Olympics this year.  For an event that comes around every four years, it should command more of my attention.

Sure, I want Team USA anything to win every gold medal they can.  However, it’s just not worth my time to watch! Ice Dancing, Curling, and Cross Country Skiing aren't exactly must-watch TV.  Skeleton?  Yeah! That get’s my attention, but only for a few minutes. Hockey? Yeah, but unless it’s the medal round, I’m really not that interested.  The Olympics is great white noise in the background while reading a book, surfing the web, twitter etc.  Watching an Olympic event from start to finish is painful. 

Most Olympic events are against a clock or judged by a human being that might not be able to remove bias necessary to objectively render judgment on the competition. I like speed skating, but once you’ve seen one skater fly around the rink in a tight suit, you’ve seen them all.  What about snowboarding?  That’s interesting, if they crash.

What is the best and worst Olympic sport/event?  Hard to pick one on either side of the spectrum, it’s just that archaic and boring. Most of the Olympic (dare I say) Games have been in since 1924.  Nearly 90 years of Ice Skating, Bobsleigh, and Cross Country Skiing. OUCH!

The Olympics have time working against them. Thankfully they’re only relevant every four years. Could you imagine if it were every year?  Let’s overhaul it.  I’ll trade you one Bobsleigh for one 7-on-7 flag football.  I’ll trade you one Ice Dancing for one Ice Fishing.  I’ll trade you curling for deer hunting.  We'll keep Skeleton, Hockey, and ski jumping in.

We’re a now society!  We want modern sports, with risk and constant evolution. We want a little violence, danger and drama.  I think mopping the floor would be more interesting as a sport than curling.  I get the Olympic games are supposed to rival medieval times, but let’s get with the modern times here. 

Now see, I can get into the Summer Olympics. Tons of those sports are interesting to me. Boxing! See, it’s filled with drama and a little violence. "Kristian... what about Beach Volleyball?" Of course anything with women in bikinis is intriguing. And what says "tough" like full on tackle with no pads? Keep Rugby forever! How about Diving?  Nothing says "big time guts" than jumping off a 100 foot platform into water that feels like cement if you mess it up.  

Of course, the Summer Games are not without their fair share of snooze-fest sports.  Artistic and Rhythmic gymnastics are at the top of that list. Let’s trade again. Or better yet, let’s just cut those out altogether. Wrestling! Weightlifting! Golf! All keepers!  Should Basketball remain?  Of course, USA dominates! Keep it!  

Notice I didn’t say soccer. It’s not listed as soccer, but listed as Football. When I hear football I think of guys in shoulder pads and scores that combine for a higher total than three.

What sport would you add or take away from the Summer or Winter Olympics?  We don’t need to bring back Baseball. What about skydiving? That sounds cool, right?  Or even Sharp Shooting?  Marksmanship is impressive.

NASCAR should be an Olympic sport.
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Kristian: More Saints roster moves

The Saints made two roster moves today, resigning Kicker Shayne Graham for one year at $955,000, as well as inking OT Bryce Harris for one year. Neither move surprised me much, but could make for an interesting backdrop going into Training Camp. 

READ MORE: See Graham's stats

I wouldn't be surprsied either if the Saints added another Kicker before Camp to compete with Graham, who joined the Black and Gold in December after the Saint cut Garrett Hartley. Graham made a great early impression when he kicked the game-winning FG in Philadelphia, but missed two in Seattle.

READ MORE: See Harris' stats

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Kristian: Smith not surprised by release

It sounds strange to say, much less type it out; Former Saints Defensive End Will Smith said he was not surprised by his release earlier in the week. “We understood the cap problems the Saints were going to have, and ultimately that’s what it came down to,” Smith said.  The Saints saved $16 million dollars in salary cap room by releasing Smith, Roman Harper, and Jabari Greer. 

Smith joined the Saints in 2004 as a first round pick out of Ohio State and had nothing but great things to say about the organization “It’s a great organization from top to bottom, it’s a place I really enjoyed playing.”  Smith didn’t rule out the possibility of re-signing a deal later in the summer at a much cheaper price.  “Sad to leave, but it’s exciting kind of moving on.  I consider this my home, all of my friends are here, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.” Smith explained.

READ MORE: Kristian: Saints moves were the right ones

Eventually everyone in the NFL gets replaced, save for the owner of the team. Smith’s release wasn’t surprising to most engaged Saints fans. It was a necessary move for a team that looks to add to their already talented but young defense, and work out a long term deal with TE Jimmy Graham.  

I don’t think the team is done making roster moves. Wide Recievers Marques Colston and Lance Moore could be asked to restructure their contracts, along with offensive linemen Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs. Quarterback Drew Brees carries a hefty $18.4 million dollar cap figure for 2014.  Colston and Moore come in at $8.3 and $5.1 million respectively. Evans counts for a cool $11 million against the cap, and Grubbs cap figure for the upcoming season is $9.1 million.

Keep an eye on Broderick Bunkley’s status this off-season.  Bunkley counts for $6.1 million against the cap, and the Saints already have an abundance of young talent along the defensive line at a much lower price tag (John Jenkins, Akiem Hicks, and Glenn Foster).  The Saints will likely be in the market for another speedy wide receiver in free agency, along with upgrading the secondary at cornerback.  Typically the Saints don’t make a huge splash in free agency by spending a lot of cash, but they love to find the ascending players that have their best football ahead of them at a great value.  The Saints could also add a veteran at cornerback on a 1 year deal hoping to catch lightning in the bottle.

 

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Kristian: Saints moves were the right ones
I can't say that I am shocked by the moves the Saints made today when they released a quartet of veterans that helped them win the Super Bowl in 2010. The Saints trimmed $16 million dollars of salary cap space by releasing Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Jabari Greer, and Roman Harper.  

"While it was always my dream to retire as a member of the New Orleans Saints, I recognize that the NFL remains a business first. I will always be grateful to Mr. Benson, Mr. Loomis, and Coach Payton for the opportunity they gave me to play the sport I love in front of football’s greatest fans, amongst some of my best friends" said Defensive End Will Smith.  All four players were key cogs in the Saints championship wheel. Smith was a first round draft pick in 2004.  Linebacker Jonthan Vilma came over in a trade from New York in 2008.  Harper was a part of Sean Payton's first draft class in 2006 as a second round pick.  Jabari Greer was a prized free agent in the 2009 off-season that helped solidify the Saints' secondary.  

All four players have battled injuries over the last two seasons.  Vilma just hasn't been the same player since 2011.  Smith suffered an ACL tear in 2013. Harper was slowed by nagging injuries this past season, Jabari Greer had a devastating knee injury that might be career threatening.   So while on the surface the moves might seem shrewd, they were necessary.

“These were not easy decisions to make,” said Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis. “Since we acquired them, Jabari, Roman, Will and Jonathan have all been excellent players on the field for us. Each of them were integral parts in turning this program around and winning a Super Bowl. They were a great example to our players as team leaders in the locker room as well. 

For the Saints and Loomis, it was just about creating money. "These are the kinds of players and people you hope to acquire. However, a new NFL year is about to begin and, with the start of free agency in March, these difficult moves allow us to position our team under the salary cap to move forward for 2014" Loomis explained.  All four players were over the age of 30, and by NFL standards that's considered old.  

The moves signal a few things for the Saints. One, this money is clearing way for a deal with Tight End Jimmy Graham.  Two, the Saints like the depth and youth on their defense, considering all four moves were made on that side of the ball.  The release of the four veterans is another harsh reminder that NFL is strictly about building teams and winning championships. 
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