The most amount of trades occur during the draft, when teams will trade up to grab a player they like or trade down to collect more picks.
However, despite the lack of trades in the NFL, the Saints should make some moves this offseason. They will be going in to the 2012 NFL draft without a first-round pick and need to get some playmakers on their defensive roster. There are a few players on that side of the ball that could be worrisome heading into the 2012 season, and the Saints may be able to ship them out of New Orleans before they play their last down of football.
New Orleans could also use a few more draft picks this year, and trading away some talent could make that happen. There are some players around the league that could help the Saints immensely as well.
Let's take a look at five ideal trade scenarios for the Saints this offseason.
Jonathan Vilma may be past his prime.
He is an amazing player and adored by Saints fans around the country, but it was obvious he lost a step in 2011. Vilma was riddled with injuries throughout the year, and when he did play he did not look near as fast as he had in previous seasons. As an undersized linebacker, Vilma depends on his speed.
If he has lost a step, the Saints may try to trade him away before it becomes more obvious.
The perfect trade scenario for Vilma and the Saints would be a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. A simple player-for-player swap would do the trick. The Saints would send Vilma to the Eagles in exchange for defensive tackle/end Cullen Jenkins.
Jenkins is a player the Saints pursued last offseason and a guy that could help their team, whereas the Eagles found themselves in deep trouble last year when injuries riddled their linebacking corps. The Saints could benefit from adding Jenkins to their defensive line rotation, and Vilma would make an immediate impact in Philly.
New Orleans would be able to start either Jo-Lonn Dunbar or Ramon Humber at the middle linebacker spot, and both players would do well. Dunbar filled in for Vilma throughout parts of last season, and played very well while doing so.
The Saints would miss Vilma's leadership, but his production on the field would likely be replaced by a younger linebacker currently on the roster.
Jenkins would be able to come into New Orleans and start opposite of Sedrick Ellis, especially if the Saints decide not to bring back Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers during the offseason.
Roman Harper is one of my favorite Saints' players, but the fact of the matter is that he may not be able to perform well in Steve Spagnuolo's defense. Spagnuolo requires his safeties to play great in coverage, and everyone knows Harper is not the best cover safety. Harper thrives when he can pressure the quarterback and play against the run.
So what do the Saints do to solve this issue?
They trade Harper to the guy that loves him most in the league, Gregg Williams.
Williams is now the defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, and he has spoken out about how important Harper is to his defense in the past. This trade would make perfect sense. The Rams do not exactly have shutdown safeties, and Williams was on his way to making Harper a sack leader in the NFL while in New Orleans. He would be able to build his aggressive defense around Harper in St. Louis.
The Saints would get back an early-round draft choice for Harper, possibly as high as a second- or third-round pick. A pick in either one of those rounds would help New Orleans tremendously, and it, frankly, would be able to replace Harper.
In fact, it could replace Harper with another trade.
Will Smith is another longtime Saint and fan favorite. He is also another one of New Orleans' defensive captains.
Smith has not played well enough to earn the massive amount of money he is due next year, and the simple fact is the Saints may decide to trade him away. It will be difficult for the Saints to send away Smith with his large contract, but it is possible. The perfect suitor for Smith would be the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills finished in the bottom of the league last year in sacks and Smith is pretty good at rushing the passer. He would be able to go into Buffalo and help out its porous pass rush, not to mention add some veteran leadership to a young, talented group.
In exchange for Smith, the Saints would receive strong safety Jairus Byrd. Now, remember that this is an ideal trade situation. In reality, the Saints probably could not pry away Byrd from the Bills, but offering Smith and a middle-round draft choice may would do the trick.
Byrd would come into an already-talented Saints secondary and fill the void of Roman Harper leaving. The difference between Byrd and Harper is that Byrd can be a true cover safety, which is exactly what Steve Spagnuolo needs in his defensive backfield.
Byrd and Malcolm Jenkins together would be a fierce combination of safeties, and the Saints would be able to replace the loss of Smith on the defensive line. They have Cameron Jordan that will start in 2012, and they also have potential starters in Junior Galette, Turk McBride and Greg Romeus.
The New Orleans Saints would be wise to trade away Zach Strief simply because they can afford to do so.
They currently have Charles Brown on the roster and he has more potential than Strief does to become a Pro Bowl-caliber right tackle.
Strief was solid for the Saints in 2011 as a first-time starter, and he would surely help a porous Miami Dolphins offensive line. The Dolphins have a talented, young offensive line led by Jake Long and Mike Pouncey, but they were still in the bottom of the league when it comes to sacks allowed last year.
Strief is a solid pass-blocker and also has a good amount of room to develop. The current right tackle for the Dolphins is Marc Colombo, who has obviously reached his ceiling and is past his prime. Strief would be an upgrade over Colombo and could end up being a very good player in the NFL.
The Saints need to give Brown a chance to start anyway because it is time to see if he has what it takes to be an NFL-caliber right tackle. Brown had an opportunity to play in 2011 when Strief went down with an injury, but he was replaced after suffering an injury himself.
Brown would be able to replace Strief on the offensive line and the Saints would not miss a beat.
In an ideal situation, the Saints would send Strief and a couple draft picks over to the Dolphins in exchange for defensive end Jared Odrick. Odrick will be going into his third year in the league, but he missed his entire rookie season after suffering an injury. Last year, he racked up six sacks for the Dolphins in limited playing time.
The Saints would need another defensive end if they were to lose Will Smith in a trade, and Odrick is the perfect candidate. He is a tall, athletic defensive end, which is the ideal player for Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
The Saints would improve greatly if they were able to get Odrick for Strief in the 2012 NFL offseason.
I strongly believe the Saints could trade away Chris Ivory and be just fine. I will probably hear a lot of negative things about this trade scenario, but hear me out.
The Saints did not even play Ivory up until Mark Ingram suffered an injury last year. Ivory stepped in and performed well, but, honestly, did about the same exact thing Ingram had done up to that point.
Darren Sproles continued to run great for the Saints, as did Pierre Thomas, and I would have liked to see the Saints give more carries to Thomas as the year went on. Thomas showed he can be the Saints' No. 1 back and do well with the role. However, Ivory was there and took up some carries.
The difference between Ivory and the Saints' other running backs is that he's not very good catching the ball out of the backfield. When Ivory is on the field, the opposing team typically knows it's a run play. With Thomas, Sproles and Ingram, the Saints can run or pass. This is why Ivory is dispensable for the Saints.
The perfect team for Ivory would have to be the Cleveland Browns. The Browns will more than likely lose their starting running back, Peyton Hillis, this offseason and will therefore need a replacement.
Ivory has shown he deserves a chance as a starting running back and would more than likely do very well in that role. The Browns need an every-down back that can come in and help a young quarterback succeed, whether that be Colt McCoy or someone the Browns draft.
In return for Ivory, the Saints would more than likely receive an early- or mid-round draft pick. The Browns have the fourth selection in the third round and the fifth selection in the fourth round.
I believe the Saints may have to send Ivory and a late-round choice to the Browns to receive a pick in the top three rounds.
If the Saints were to trade Ivory, then they still have three solid running backs on the roster and they would be adding some more weapons by picking up another draft pick.