Did the Saints get enough in return for Darren Sproles? All the experts at WWL agree: the Saints made the right move in trading Sproles to the Eagles.
"I think it's great value in return! I did think the Saints would hold onto Sproles for one more year... with that said, he is not the same player he was in 2011," said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert. Sproles provided the Saints with a unique talent that forced defenses to game plan for him, a job which Bobby says will have to fall to other players now. "Is Travaras Cadet that player? I don't know. I think ultimately, that move is what was needed to continue to fortify the defense."
"It was expected, if you ask me!" said Saints Color Analyst Hokie Gajan. "It's better than releasing him outright and not getting anything in return for him. They know what they have in him, and the Saints know what they're doing. Who am I to question what they got in return for Sproles?" added Gajan.
Draft picks are much more coveted in today's NFL under this C.B.A. The running back position has been devalued so much in the league.
Considering Darren Sproles was drafted in the 4th round in 2005 by the San Diego Chargers, and the Saints acquired in him free agency in 2011, New Orleans got tremendous value in recieving a 5th round draft choice from the Eagles in exchange for Sproles.
Teams across the league have cut all-pro players like Demarcus Ware (Cowboys) and Derrell Revis (Tampa) and didn't get any compensation. The Saints turned Sproles into a great return. If you look at the draft history of the Saints in the 5th round, it's impressive. The Black and Gold have turned five fifth-round picks into starters since 2002; Carl Nicks, Thomas Morstead, Corey White, Kenny Stills, Rob Nincovich.
Sproles' production dropped off dramatically in 2013. He tallied just four explosive plays of 20+ yards last season. Sproles had over 70 receptions last season with the saints and while that production might be missed, he was virtually a non-factor in the running game.
His production in the return game also saw a drastic drop-off. In 2011, Sproles averaged 18.7 yards per punt return. In 2013, his average dipped to 12.9 yards per return. In kickoff returns, Sproles averaged 27.2 yards in 2011, and in 2013 it fell to 21.7.
Overall, it was a necessary move, and with money saved, it allowed the Saints to bring in Safety Jairus Byrd and gain a draft choice.
Once again, another Houdini-type move from the Saints front office!
The Saints made a huge splash and pulled off perhaps the biggest coup in free agency by agreeing to terms on a 6-year, $54 million dollar agreement with free agent safety Jairus Byrd. $28 million dollars of the deal is guaranteed. Byrd was widely thought of as the best safety and arguably the best player on the market. "Byrd could potentially be the Saints greatest defensive free agency signing in franchise history... when free agency is over, he will be the best signing in the conversation!" said WWL's Bobby Hebert.
Byrd has 22 career interceptions in 6 seasons with the Bills and made 3 Pro Bowls. To put that in perspective, former Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins, T.J Ward (the other hot name on the market) and Donte Whitner combined for 3 Pro Bowls. "We had hoped for the opportunity to pursue Jairus Byrd," said Saints GM Mickey Loomis. "After meeting with him, we are excited that he will become a member of the New Orleans Saints. We think that his play-making abilities will be an excellent fit with what we are trying to accomplish with our defense, and in our secondary."
The Saints safety is obviously excited to land with New Orleans. "We played against the Saints this year, and I saw their style of play and was impressed by it. I think I will fit well in the scheme. This is a great opportunity to join a championship organization. I look forward to meeting my new teammates and being part of a great Saints defense," Byrd explained a team released statement.
The Byrd signing is a huge get for the Saints! It tells me a couple of things, they've definitely taken notice of the Seattle defense and more moves are to come with the official transactions regarding Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas.
The first unrestricted free agent to leave New Orleans in 2014 is Malcolm Jenkins, according to a source.
The former first-round pick is headed to the Eagles on a three year deal. Jenkins was a part of the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl squad in his rookie season as a cornerback. In 2010, he switched to safety and was voted team captain in 2011. Click here to view his stats.
Free agency is off and running in the NFL! The cash-strapped Dallas Cowboys released veteran DE/OLB Demarcus Ware, and immediately Saints fans started clamoring for Ware in a Black and Gold uniform.
It makes sense... Sean Payton was a part of the Cowboys team as offensive coordinator when Dallas drafted Ware in the 1st round in 2005. Rob Ryan spent time with Ware as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator before coming to New Orleans last year.
I'm not sure what the price tag is at 31 years of age, but Ware was voted the third best player in the NFL by his peers following the 2012 season. After an injury-riddled 2013 campaign, the Saints might be able to snag this very talented pass rusher. Ware would be an interesting combination with Junior Galette and Cameron Jordan.
Ware has 37 sacks in the last three seasons with Dallas.
The Saints will release wide receiver Lance Moore, and save almost $5 million in cap space in the process.
The addition of last year's rookie WR Kenny Stills make this move more palatable. Moore was a part of the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl run, but last year his stats took a dive after he missed three games with a wrist injury. He notched 37 catches for 457 yards and only 2 TDs.
The bottom line is that today's NFL, if you're making a premium salary, you'd better have premium production, which Lance Moore simply did not. As such, it's not shocking to see the Saints release Moore. He is the last player that was still a holdover from the pre-Sean Payton era.
It's a harsh reality that the NFL hsa transformed into a young man's game, where teams are really just renting players as opposed to owning them. The young players fill a void at cheaper costs, and the superstar high-priced talent continue to be talented and high-priced.
The Saints are reportedly exploring the possibility of trading three big names on offense.
Those names are Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore and Darren Sproles, according to ESPN.
The cash-strapped Saints could trim several million dollars off the salary cap with a trade of one or three of the aforementioned players.
The possibility of a trade isn't surprising, considering the desire to re-sign Tight End Jimmy Graham and Tackle Zach Strief. The Saints have $1.5 million of cap space ahead of opening day of free agency on March 11th. Teams can begin negotiating with players on Saturday March 8th.
One former Saints player who asked to remain anonymous doesn't agree with me about the possibility of moving Moore, Thomas, and possibly Sproles.
"What the f*** are they doing? Tearing it down? They better be careful how fast they do it. They're being too aggressive in one off-season," he said.
He added "They seem to forget the formula to their success. They think they don't need any vets because some young players flashed and played well last season."
The Saints have put a non-exclusive franchise tag on Jimmy Graham. If you're not familiar, that means another NFL team - any NFL team - could make an offer and negotiate a contract with Graham.
Of course, the Saints would have the right to match any of those offers. For a player like Graham, every team in the league would be interested, but I expect the Saints would come to the table ready to match anything that gets thrown out. If Jimmy went somewhere else, the Saints would be compensated two first-round draft picks. It's a good way to let the market determine Jimmy Graham's worth.
Again, unless it is a truly blockbuster deal, I expect the Saints to come away from any negotiating table with Graham still in line.