2013 New Orleans Saints: How One Trade Can Brighten the Future in the Big Easy
Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect?
Well, this idea I have rattling around in my head contains the same logic as that, but more or less contained to New Orleans Saints football. So let's fall it the Fleur-de-Lis effect.
This particular theory could have the future looking very bright for the Black and Gold, and all it would involve is one star-scrossed trade followed by a few cap casualties. If us fans could let go of past heroes and gear up for a new era as the $100 million man once said, all of this will make a lot of sense.
Who could these sacrificial lambs be?
Let's take a look.
The Trade and the Aftershock
The numbers might not suggest it, but Roman Harper had a pretty decent year in a bad situation last season under Steve Spagnuolo. Let's face it, though: the Alabama product was not a good fit in that defense, and his style of play might not be any better in a 3-4 style that is dependent on safeties having more responsibilities, especially in coverage.
Call me crazy, but there are a few teams whose schemes would fit Harper perfectly. The ones that pop in my head, more now than ever before, have been the Tennessee Titans and St. Louis Rams. Both are fringe playoff teams that are a hard-hitting safety away from having one of the best secondaries in the game.
Either team they'd go with could offer a third and sixth/seventh for Harper, and, if they do, I would jump on it immediately.
Getting rid of Harper's salary coupled with making some of the older Saints cap casualties would be a great start to this offseason.
Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma and Jabari Greer are all on the downside of their careers, and all three of them are are hamstringing a salary cap that is already $14 million over before the offseason has begun. The trio, or some combination of them, could be brought back at discounted rates later in training camp.
After making these four moves, the Saints salary cap number would go from deep in debt to $22 million in the black after clearing $36 million off the books.
Pick Up Free Agents and Keep Your Own
After the Band-Aid has been ripped off and there is a fresh $22 million-ish to play with, it's time for Mickey Loomis to do what he does best: shock and awe in the free agency.
In this running theory that I have here, the free agents I have the Saints picking up vary from big splashes to quality backups to fill some of their holes before they embark on the crapshoot that is the NFL Draft.
The moves to make would be signing Dallas OLB Anthony Spencer, Baltimore CB Cary Williams, ILB/ST Larry Grant, Chicago WR/ST Johnny Knox and Atlanta OT Sam Baker.
The Spencer signing would mean less pressure to try and hit a home run on a rush linebacker in the first round. It frees up Sean Payton and Loomis to go the route they ideally would like to go, and that is the best player available route.
Williams would start immediately, leaving the other side to be fought over between Patrick Robinson and Corey White. Grant and Knox would be valuable backups and excellent special teamers. That unit could really stand to be upgraded.
Baker, while he didn't really live up to his first-round status in Atlanta, could be signed on the cheap to add competition for Charles Brown, Marcel Jones and Zach Strief.
Making these moves, worth about $15 million, as well as re-signing Chase Daniel, Junior Galette, Brian de la Puente, Rafael Bush and Elbert Mack, could be the foundation for a very good draft.
Loading Up in the Draft
With all of the transactions that have been made in this theory, the Saints have come up with some great players in free agency and can now add two draft picks that they desperately need.
I'd use these seven picks like so:
First Round: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Third Round: Brandon Williams, NT, Missouri Southern
Third Round (from TEN/STL): Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego St.
Fourth Round: David Quessenberry, OT, San Jose St.
Fifth Round: William Gholston, DE, Michigan St.
Sixth Round: Meshak Williams, OLB, Kansas St.
Seventh Round: Terrence Brown, CB, Stanford
Seventh Round (From TEN/STL): Quanterus Smith, OLB, Western Kentucky
This draft right here would fantastic. Put this together with all of the other things that they have done, and New Orleans has turned an area of weakness—the entire defense—into a very young area of strength.
Vaccaro would team up with Malcolm Jenkins to give the Saints a very versatile, top-end duo in the back of their secondary. B. Williams would be the future at nose tackle and join Brodrick Bunkley in a nice rotation at that position.
Escobar could be Aaron Hernandez to Jimmy Graham's Rob Gronkowski and become a very dynamic duo that would cause a lot of matchup problems. Quessenberry joins Escobar as the only offensive players in this "mock" and adds tremendous upside at the tackle position. He was very productive against better talent in the Senior Bowl.
Gholston is a heck of a talent that would be a steal if he drops, as expected, into the early part of the fifth round. He could back up Cameron Jordan almost immediately and be productive.
The next three picks are sleepers that, in my opinion, are going to be very good NFL players.
Williams and Smith show a relentless motor and ridiculous pass-rushing skills, but both are limited in the run game. That reason has their stock very low. Add injury to Smith's 2012 season and you get why he is around the seventh-free agent barrier.
With the addition of Spencer, Martez Wilson and Galette on the other side, the team can take low-risk/high-reward players later in the draft and keep their focus on better the team elsewhere.
All in all, this turnover might seem like a little much, but the last couple times the Saints have had a turnover like so was in 2006 and 2009. Those years worked out pretty well I'd say, and neither of those can hold a candle to the bright future that could be waiting for New Orleans with these moves.