Trading 2019 Draft choices tells me Saints’ future is now!by J.W. Miller on 09/03/18
One of the less publicized, yet ongoing, debates among NFL general managers and personnel wizards is whether to trade or hold on tight to future draft picks. Some resist trading draft choices because that is your future. Others would readily trade a future draft choice to get a player who could help their team right away. Does that latter sound familiar? When the Saints dealt two high picks in the 2019 Draft to fill 2018 needs, it was obvious. Your favorite team is loading up and putting all their eggs in the Super Bowl LIII basket!
When I was with the Chicago Bears, our GM Mark Hatley, who had worked under Bum Phillips in New Orleans, was trying to pump up an anemic Bears offense. We were in the first round of the 2001 draft, and Hatley had already drafted a wide receiver at No. 8, and he was trying to trade back into the first round to add one more key player. I remember him running into the war room, saying he had just gotten off the phone with one club that would give up their No. 23 pick for next year’s first-rounder, and Hatley believed the player he targeted would be there. However, team President Ted Phillips did not want to trade a future first-rounder and vetoed the deal. Hatley was disappointed and then downright furious when the No. 23 pick came and the team who had agreed to give up the slot drafted the player Hatley coveted, RB Deuce McAllister of Ole Miss. Sometimes you get lucky!
Flash forward to the Saints of the present who flipped the scenario and got the players they wanted by trading future picks. Last year, when the Saints saw a diminutive running back with a much higher grade fall into Round 3, it was worth giving up a future No. 2 pick. Alvin Kamara's Rookie of the Year season more than justified the trade. They did it again during the 2018 Draft, trading their 2019 No. 1 choice to move up and select Marcus Davenport, and they did it again last week, trading a future No. 3 pick to the Jets for QB Teddy Bridgewater.
When I first heard about the deal, it didn’t make a lot of sense, trading a relatively high pick for a player on a one-year contract who might not even see the field this year. That also meant the Saints could go into the 2019 NFL Draft without their first-round pick and their third-round pick. But after a glass or two of Mother Makers, it was clear that the Saints brass was covering all their bases, even the unthinkable event of a Brees' injury. Would you rather have Taysom Hill, Tom Savage or Teddy Bridgewater ready in case Brees went down?
And besides, just how valuable is the 2019 draft? I took a look at positions that might need to be filled next year, and the news is encouraging. Nearly every starting player on both sides of the ball is under contract for 2019, which lessens the need for high draft choices. Eleven offensive players and thirteen defensive players who are projected to log significant playing time this year are under contract for next year. The only potential major free agent on offense is RB Mark Ingram, and we could get a peak at his future value in the first four games when he is suspended.
Brees has another year left on his contract, the offensive line is intact, and the young skill players won’t hit meaningful free agency for a couple years. Some tight ends could be unrestricted free agents, but those positions can be filled by other means. On defense, A.J. Klein, Demario Davis and Alex Anzalone are under contract, and the young secondary will be around for awhile. Ditto the defensive line.
A loaded roster and the free agent market make the 2019 draft less important than it might otherwise have been. So not having a No. 1 or a No. 3 pick is manageable, especially if Davenport becomes this year’s Kamara, high present value for a future asset. The investment in Bridgewater is simply an expensive insurance policy in the event Father Time finally taps Brees on the shoulder. And, if the Saints believe Bridgewater is Brees’ successor, they’ve got an entire season to convince the former Louisville star that New Orleans isn’t a bad place to hang your helmet.
Make no mistake about it, Who Dats! The Saints are playing for another Super Bowl run this year and will let 2019 take care of itself.