The trade heard round the world... well, at least the NFL world. Right before the start of free agency, word broke that the Saints and Seahawks had agreed on a monumental trade, sending Jimmy Graham and a 4th round draft pick to Seattle in exchange for Max Unger (a center) and a 1st round pick.
Many Who Dats immediately began freaking out. It's understandable; this is a HUGE trade. In five seasons, Graham hauled in 386 receptions for a whopping 4,752 yards and 51 touchdowns. He even led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2013. No matter how you slice it, losing a 6'7, 260lbs tight end with that kind of production will hurt.
However, Who Dats shouldn't worry. This looks like a win for the Saints.
Max Unger is one of the top centers in the game. He's a two time Pro Bowler and was voted first team All-Pro in 2012. He should immediately step in and fill the hole at center. He also has a friendly contract, with cap hits of just $4.5 million in 2015 and 2016. The Saints offensive line just took a big step forward.
They also get another prime draft pick, receiving the 31st overall pick. That gives the Saints four selections in the first 75 picks of the draft. Not too shabby.
Those four picks also give the Saints great flexibility. They have added ammunition to trade up and grab a player they really want or they can stand pat and draft four highly rated prospects.
Another thing to keep in mind? Here's where the Saints offense ranked with Sean Payton and Drew Brees before Jimmy Graham was drafted:
Brees is older now, of course; but he's still an elite quarterback. One of the complaints last season was that he didn't have enough protection or time to throw; well, now he has a better o-line. Brees has thrown for at least 4,900 yards each of the past four seasons. He elevates the pass-catchers around him.
The Saints survived and thrived before Graham was in the Black and Gold. They can do so after Graham, too.