With NFL training camp fast approaching, football fans can begin to get excited about the 2012 season. Coming to a stadium near you will be NFL football at its finest.
With that news, football coaches are getting ready to train their players and prepare them for the rigors of a 16-game regular season, and hopefully the playoffs.
For the New Orleans Saints, that is both Joe Vitt's and Aaron Kromer's job in 2012. Those two, along with defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, Jr., are mostly responsible for determining which players end up on the initial 53-man roster come September 2.
That is always a difficult job, perhaps the most difficult aspect of being a football coach. Their decisions make or break lives. Even more, their decisions could make or break a football team and its season.
Once they make their decisions, Mickey Loomis is on the hook to find the best solution for those players. The team always has the option to cut, waive or release them. In some instances, though, it is in the best interest of the player and the team to initiate trade talks with another team.
The Saints have accumulated enough talent over the years where some of the backups are intriguing prospects other teams could be interested in. Here are some of those players.
Let's be honest for a second. Chris Ivory is not going to get the carries in New Orleans.
Some would say he won't get the carries he deserves. I intentionally left that last phrase out, as I do not believe Ivory is any more than a nice third back for a team.
But there are clearly teams around the league who believe he is more than that. And there are teams who will undeniably be in the market for a player who has shown some ability to break tackles and get into the open field in his first two seasons in New Orleans.
For a running back-starved team (Green Bay, New England, Cincinnati, or Philadelphia) or a team coming out of the preseason with a long-term injury to one of its prominent backs, Ivory's services could yield an attractive draft-pick offering.
If the Saints could muster even a fifth-round pick from a team, they would have to strongly consider it. Ivory is unique on this list because the Saints will not release him outright. In that sense, they have leverage for a trade.
Unlike with most of the players on this list, if a team really wants Ivory it's going to have to pony up to get him. It will not be able to simply wait for him to clear waivers.
If a team is truly starved for a running back, Ivory would make tons of sense. And gaining a draft pick for him would make more sense for New Orleans than keeping a player many teams desire.
For those who insist that should the Saints deal a back, it should be Mark Ingram, here is my response to that.
With Travaris Cadet and Joe Banyard on the roster, the Saints have equally talented players they can slap on their practice squad and activate later in the season if absolutely necessary.
This move makes almost too much sense not to happen.
It might still be too early to declare second-round draft pick Charles Brown a bust. At 6'5", 297 pounds and 25 years of age, some front offices could certainly talk themselves into taking a chance on him, especially if they're in dire need on the exterior of their offensive line.
Heck, if they have any need on their line they may trade for him, in hopes that he can be plugged in somewhere and produce. The kid is a good athlete who may be playing out of position at right tackle with the Saints.
He could fit with a zone scheme running team as a guard. In fact, that might be where he'd fit best. For a seventh-round pick, he'd be worth the risk.
And for the Saints, they have some leverage since he is the backup right tackle. Convincing a team they still could use him should not be hard. Therefore a trade may be the only way Brown moves on.
That would be best-case scenario for New Orleans.
Here's where the Saints truly begin to lose leverage in hopes of gaining a piece back from another team when ridding themselves of another body.
Matt Tennant was highly regarded coming out of Boston College. Unfortunately, centers as draft prospects rarely translate to early-round picks, unless they are either certain to start right away and perform at a Pro Bowl level or possess the unique ability to play both guard spots as well as center.
While Tennant does have the capability of playing guard, he has never been needed in New Orleans, since the team has always had superstar players (Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, now Ben Grubbs) at both interior spots.
And he has never been able to secure the center spot, most recently being beaten out by an out-of-nowhere free-agent signing, Brian de la Puente, last offseason. (Of course, after the Olin Kreutz debacle. Does anyone even remember that now? I would have forgotten had I not went back and watched the first two games of the year while studying Mark Ingram.)
That said, if a team is desperate enough at center, especially, Tennant could be a player to be had for a slim price right around September 1. The Saints certainly wouldn't mind if such a development occurred.
It seems likely that either Johnny Patrick or Corey White will win the New Orleans Saints' nickel corner job. Tampa Bay import Elbert Mack is likely to be the dime guy.
Whomever the loser of the nickel job is should be traded. Let me explain my thinking further.
The Saints have a number of promising safety prospects: Jonathon Amaya, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Jerico Nelson and Johnny Thomas.
That, of course, is the spot Corey White could also fill if he were not to make the roster. But since he'll be working at corner through camp, it would be too much work for him and the team to try to make that transition once the regular season commences.
And the Saints have some nice backup options. Recent free-agent signing Marquis Johnson of Alabama and the St. Louis Rams is another player who figures to challenge for a roster spot, especially since he knows Steve Spagnuolo's defense.
What the Saints could get for the loser of the nickel competition is unknown at this point. The main reason for this move would be to open space for better players and perhaps a couple dollars of cap space.
Before you explode on me, please notice the use of the asterisk. This is merely a conditional choice. The conditions would have to be numerous.
First, a team would have to offer a second-round pick for Wilson. That is very unlikely to happen. But if a team thought Wilson was ready to contribute right away and had a great need at either outside linebacker or defensive end, it could possibly make a legitimate offer.
Only after that condition was met (the offer of a second-round pick, that is), the team would have to determine from the spring OTAs and summer training camp that it has enough quality pass-rushers.
Among potential players to make a name for themselves in Steve Spagnuolo's front-four-friendly defense are veterans Junior Galette and Sed Ellis (a defensive tackle who could make some exciting things happen from the interior in this defense) and rookies Akiem Hicks and Donavan Robinson, to name a few.
Again, I am not saying I want Wilson gone. The asterisk is quite key here. Only if a team were to blow the Saints away with an incredible offer, and the Saints determine they could still create a significant pass rush without him, would I even consider such a move.
But he is a big name who could garner interest from other teams. And that could help the team in the long term.
When the Saints' 53-man roster is revealed on September 2, I expect to see every player on this list to be on the active roster. In fact, I want every player on this list to be on the roster.
Instead, I expect the Saints to release veterans such as Scott Shanle and Will Herring before they trade any of the players on this list.
The players listed here are guys who could provide value in a trade, especially if a team were to inquire in the event of an injury to a key player at one of these positions.
The Saints should only make a move if they receive value in return for their stock. If they do, a trade could be consummated. But don't count on it.
All these guys are likely to remain in New Orleans, at least through their current contracts.