The New Orleans Saints, in dire need of more cash to help with the current salary cap situation, have been trying to trade running back Pierre Thomas and wide receiver Lance Moore, according to a report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Saints shopping RB Pierre Thomas and WR Lance Moore to other teams, per sources, and even could be open to trading RB Darren Sproles also.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 6, 2014
And since running back and return specialist Darren Sproles might be on the block too, the Saints are seemingly willing to part with a huge portion of their offense.
Thomas was the Saints’ leading rusher last season with 549 yards on 147 carries. Sproles gained 220 yards on 53 carries. The duo combined to make up 51.2 percent on the total carries and 52.2 percent of the rushing yards for New Orleans in 2013.
Between the two, Thomas and Sproles also caught 148 passes, 77 from Thomas and 71 by Sproles, good for second place and fourth, respectively on the team. Moore caught 37 passes for 457 yards and two touchdowns and was the Saints' fifth leading receiver in catches and sixth in passing yards.
The Saints need money. The team already released linebackers Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma last month. New Orleans also cut cornerback Jabari Greer and Roman Harper in an attempt to save money.
As it stands right now, and this is an assumption made by Over the Cap, New Orleans is about $1.5 million under the cap after tight end Jimmy Graham’s franchise tag is considered. That’s not even enough to sign the 2014 rookie class that’ll be drafted in May, much less sign a free agent.
More cuts are going to have to be made; maybe even some trades. But the Saints need to be careful not to cut too much talent too soon.
The reason for putting Thomas, and even Sproles, on the trading block is twofold. Even though Thomas and Sproles make up such a huge portion of the offense, they are still only half of a four-man unit that showed signs of productivity, especially late in the season.
If both Thomas and Sproles were traded, New Orleans would still have Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson at running back. Ingram averaged 4.9 yards per carry last season and did phenomenally well in the last two regular season games and the Saints' two playoff games. Over those four games Ingram carried the ball 44 times and averaged 5.7 yards per carry.
Robinson emerged late as well, averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 33 carries over his last three games, including the playoffs. Former head coach Bill Parcells even compared Robinson to Curtis Martin.
Parcells called this week and said, ‘Sean what are you doing? You’ve got Curtis Martin right in front of your eyes, and you’re not doing anything with him. Give him the ball.’
Before the Saints move Thomas and Sproles, it might be best to remember that while Ingram is well thought of right now, for the better part of the 2013 season he was a hated man among the Saints faithful for his inconsistent and low level of play. Also remember that Robinson is an undrafted free agent with only 75 professional carries to his resume.
Should the Saints really pin their hopes of a decent running game on two guys who shined at the end of 2013, but have only experienced success in a small sample size?
The other reason Thomas and Sproles have become the conversation of trade talks is because of money owed. Over the Cap has Thomas’ 2014 cap figure at $2.9 million and Sproles’ at $4.25 million. That’s a lot of money for guys who are only pieces of the puzzle at running back.
If New Orleans traded this duo of running backs away, it might be able to get younger, less expensive talent in return, possibly even at the running back position. But is the financial savings worth the lack of experience and track record?
Moore is in a similar situation.
If Moore stays with the Saints, his 2014 cap figure will be $5.07 million. That’s a big number for a guy who’s being pushed on the depth chart—or might have already been passed—by Kenny Stills, who caught five fewer passes but gained 184 more yards during his rookie campaign.
It would be a lot to stomach paying Moore $5 million as the team’s third receiver. But quarterback Drew Brees is well known for flourishing because he spreads the ball around to a number of targets.
The Saints offense works because Brees has a large number of targets he can trust. Moore is one of Brees’ trusted few and is only one year removed from a 1,041-yard season.
Tough cuts are going to have to be made during this offseason. Moore, with his $5 million cap figure, might be the most likely to go, but hardest to deal because of that salary.
No matter who goes, whether it’s via trade or an outright release, New Orleans has to be careful not to give up too much talent. Sure the Saints can save a lot of money by sending high-priced talent away, but if injuries occur, or the players left behind aren’t ready for expanded roles, the 2014 season could get ugly.
No one in Who Dat Nation wants a return to the 7-9 days of 2012.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.
Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.