Steve: Graham is a part of Saints essential core; who else?
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.