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Mickey Loomis Press Conference Transcript: Saints State of the Union

Opening Statement: "We’ve had some time to celebrate winning Super Bowl XLIV. It’s been everything that we could have dreamed of. We want to thank our fans for the tremendous reception that they’ve given us. It started with the greeting that we had at the airport when we came back from the airport when we got back from Miami, the victory parade, which was beyond description if you weren’t a participant and all the way through the mardi gras parades that we were able to participate in. We want to thank the krewes for allowing us to do that and frankly from my point of view and I participated in a couple of those, it was like an extension of the victory parade. We appreciate that a lot. We recognized the special relationship that our fans have had with this team, not just this year, but for all o these years and I can assure you that we don’t take that for granted. I also want to assure our fans that we’re back to work. We’re preparing of the upcoming season and the opportunity to defend a championship. We’re on schedule in our preparations for the draft. We have all of our draft picks except for our fifth round choice, which last year we traded in order to take Thomas Morstead. Though the final four rules prevented our participation in free agency until a little while ago, we’re prepared for that. We’re closely monitoring the activity and now we have the opportunity to bring a few guys in and sign at least one UFA. We began this offseason with difficult decisions. We terminated the contracts of Jamar Nesbit, Mark Simoneau and Charles Grant and those players have meant a lot to this organization, great team guys who were instrumental in turning a 3-13 team in 2005 into a Super Bowl champion for the 2009 season. We also started this league year with ten unrestricted free agents and 18 restricted free agents, 16 of whom we tendered offers to. So far we’ve been able to sign three of our unrestricted free agents, Nick LeckeyJason KylePierson Prioleau and one of our restricted free agents, Leigh Torrence. We hope to have contracts for all of the RFAs tendered in the coming months. We have a lot of work in front of us, but we’re going to be doing that pretty diligently. We’ve lost one player to another team so far, Scott Fujita and Scott just got an offer that was too good to turn down. He wanted to return to New Orleans. We wanted him to return to New Orleans, but we understand what free agency is. We’re going to miss Scott and Jaclyn. They were the first to commit to the New Orleans Saints after Hurricane Katrina, after the 2005 season and Scott really exemplified the type of player we want in New Orleans, intelligent, tough, high-character and a great leader for our team. We wish them all the best."

Q: Do you hope to have multiyear contracts for all the RFAs or signed tenders?

"For all of those guys we’d like to have multiyear contracts. We’ll just see what happens in the coming months."

Q: Are you not going to shy away from multiyear contracts due to the uncertainty of the collective bargaining agreement?

"There is uncertainty in terms of the collective bargaining agreement and where we’re going to be at. That’s going to cause us to evaluate each deal, but if we can make it work under our salary structure, under what we anticipate, then certainly we’d like to have each of these guys under a multiyear contract."

Q: Are you giving yourselves a salary cap?

"We always have a budget. That’s no different than any year for us."

Q: Is it higher than normal?

"I wouldn't say that. I’d think it’s normal. We’re approaching this year with the idea that there eventually will be an agreement."

Q: Darren Sharper has been fairly public with his feelings about contract negotiations with he and the club so far. From your side of the table, hearing these comments are you affected by it or would you rather it not be that way? 

"I have all of the love in the world for Darren Sharper. I just don’t have all the money in the world for Darren Sharper. We’d like to have Darren back. We really would and again, no different than any player, if it fits under the salary structure and the resources that we have, then we’ll definitely want to have him back. If it doesn’t and he has an opportunity somewhere else, we understand that."

Q: Can you explain for an average fan what an uncapped year means and that it doesn’t necessarily mean to break the bank without a cap?

"The uncapped year really means that we don’t have a fixed salary cap that we have to stay under. But that doesn’t change the fact that we have limited resources like any team, so we have to pay attention to that. That’s what we’re going to do."

Q: Does the amount you spend more amount the club’s overall bottom line at the end of the year?

"It certainly affects that, yes."

Q: In the perfect world, everybody probably returns to the team, but when you win a Super Bowl, your players are looked at as a notch above. Are there a handful of guys such as Darren Sharper and Pierre Thomas that there is a good chance you could lose?

"I don’t know if there’s a good chance or not. That’s really not up to me. It’s up to other teams. I think historically, if you look at teams that are successful, their players are attractive. They have success because they have good players. We’re not different than those teams. New England for example, has lost players over the years with their success and Indianapolis has players that they've lost that they rather would have kept. There’s definitely going to be some of that. It’s a little unique this year because of the rules and we have a number of guys that are restricted free agents instead of being unrestricted free agents. If you look at the last ten or 15 years where there have been restricted free agents, there haven’t been many of them that have changed teams, there have been some. The likelihood of a restricted free agent changing teams, I don’t know if it’s greater this year or less than prior years. We’ll have to see, but we have some good players that are restricted free agents."

Q: Is it more difficult to evaluate players strictly on football as opposed to emotion after what happened this year?

"Yes, it’s probably a little more difficult. You want to continue to have success with the guys that have gotten you to this point. There’s no question about that. But each one of these guys has to make an individual decision for their family, but to maximize their earnings. We understand that. There’s nobody happier for Scott (Fujita) and the contract he got than I am on the one hand because I like him so much and I know what he’s meant to our team. On the other hand, it’s really disappointing to lose a player like Scott who has meant so much to us. There are some conflicting emotions that go on when you evaluate your own team."

Q: Coming off of the Super Bowl championship, are you sensing more interest from players or from agents in coming here and being a part of what your club has built?

"I think that over the last four years New Orleans has become an attractive place for players to come to for a lot of reasons. Our coaching staff, the quality of guys that we have on our team, obviously the success, the quarterback that we have and the environment that’s been created here. I think that’s been a trend over the last four years. Certainly when you win a Super Bowl championship, it becomes even more attractive."

Q: After the Super Bowl, one of your scouts in a conversation referenced a conversation he had with you in San Antonio four years ago where you said this club was going to be all about character from now on. Do you remember that conversation and can you tell us about it?

"Yes. One of the things that happens when you go through some adversity is that people reveal themselves. Knowing how diffcult the circumstances were going to be in New Orleans after 2005, we just felt like character took an even greater importance for our team. It’s been a point of emphasis. It was a point of emphasis with Sean (Payton) at the very first meeting that I had with him and that went a long way toward us being on the same page. We’ve continued to have that emphasis and we will continue. There will be occasions where we think that even though a guy has some stuff in his background that we don’t like that it would be a good opportunity for a player to turn himself around. I think Anthony Hargrove’s an example of that, but we’re going to emphasize character going forward just as we have the last few years."

Q: Who will fill Scott Fujita’s position?

"That remains to be seen. We have some guys in our program right now in Jonathan Casillas andStanley Arnoux, young players. We have some other candidates, Anthony WatersTroy Evans, but that will be determined in training camp."

Q: Are you looking to fill the position internally as opposed to externally?

"Again, we’re not able to participate (free agency) at a very good level in the UFA market. We’ll see what happens in the next few months."

Q: As a general rule when you bring a free agent in, is it a case of wanting to get a deal done or is it purely exploratory on both sides?

"I think it’s a combination. Clearly when you bring somebody in during this period, then you have an idea you want to sign them, but there’s also a lot of times we maybe have not had direct contact with that player and want to get to know them, want to hear how they see themselves. We want to talk to them about the role we have for them and how that meets their expectations and so I’d say it was a combination of those two things.

Q: Would Jake Delhomme fit that description?

"We’re going to have Jake visit later today. We have James Hall in here today. We had a visit scheduled with Leonard Little and an emergency came up and he’s had to postpone that, so we’ll see what happens."

Q: Does the postponement of Leonard Little’s visit have nothing to do with James Hall visiting?

"No. Unrelated."

Q: Do you think that Jake Delhomme is interested in being a backup?

"I think that remains to be seen. That’s part of the reason we’re bringing him here. Obviously Jake wouldn’t take the visit if he didn’t have that interest."

Q: Do you have any other visits scheduled?

"We have those three scheduled. Actually we don’t have Leonard Little rescheduled yet, but James Hall and Jake Delhomme and that’s all I’m willing to disclose at this time."

Q: Are you looking to see if Delhomme is interested in taking on a backup role?

"I think this is a combination of that exploratory visit along with a desire to sign him. We need to have a conversation with Jake and talk about how he sees himself and how he thinks he would fit here before we can say, ‘We’re willing to sign you.’"

Q: In terms of need in free agency, would you rank defensive end above linebacker?

"We have a need at both of those positions, but we have more guys in the building at the linebacker position than we do at defensive end. But we also have a lot of draft picks that we get to exercise in April. Hopefully we’ll be able to fill both of those spots between free agency and the draft."

Q: Having evaluated Drew Brees coming off of a shoulder injury, does that make you better able to look past injuries to a player’s potential, such as Delhomme and his elbow?

"We need to answer that to some degree, although we don’t have a lot of concern about the injury. We saw some things during the season that lead us to believe that he’s fine. Again, we’ll have a discussion with him about that today and tomorrow. And we give all of those guys a physical when they come as well."

Q: How important is keeping Jahri Evans and the offensive line together?

"He’s a high priority. Jahri has developed himself into being one of the best – if not the best – offensive guards in the National Football League. Clearly we want to keep him here. Not just because he’s a great player, but because of the type of person that he is. He’s one of these players that exemplifies what we want to bring here. We’ll see if we can get that done in the near-term."

Q: How have the conversations been with him and his agent?

"It has been very positive."

Q: With the 32nd pick in the first round, has there been more consideration and discussion of possibly trading that pick this year?

"It’s too early to do that. I think that we’ve shown in our history that we’re not afraid to trade up, trade down, trade out, trade for a player. We’ve exercised all of those options over the years and we’ll do the same, but it’s really too early start talking about that with other teams."

Q: Do you think things will change with the Restricted Free Agent (RFA) this year from past years?

"We’re evaluating that. We’ve gone through every restricted free agent available and the compensation attached to them, so we’re evaluating that. I’m not going to disclose that we are or we aren’t going to exercise that opportunity."

Q: With as many key players that you have that are RFAs, a lot of people speculated that other teams would jump on them early. Do you think the RFA market is more of a timetable thing?

"I think the RFA market doesn’t really heat up until after the initial Unrestricted Free Agent market cools down. The timing for that is probably in the upcoming weeks as opposed to the week or so that has just ended. Whether that’s greater than it has been in the past, I don’t know. I’m as anxious to find out as you are. The good news is that we have a right of first refusal on all of our Restricted Free Agents first and if we elect not to exercise that, then there’s going to be compensation attached to most of them, and in some cases some very high compensation. We’ll make those decisions as they come about."

Are you curious to see if anyone will use the so-called "poison pill" in an RFA contract?

"I’m not worried about that. If it happens, it happens and we’ll address it at the time. I don’t spend a lot of time contemplating the ‘what ifs’ in that scenario."

Q: Do you envision signing your RFAs to long-term deals in the coming weeks or would you wait until later?

"I think for the most part, those discussions will happen after a bit of time goes by. I can’t give you a specific timeframe, but it will be later rather than sooner."

Q: Will Reggie Bush be back? And will he be back at his current salary?

"Yes. He’ll be back and he’ll be back at his current salary."

Q: What goes into the decision as to what level to tender different RFAs at?

"There are a lot of variables that go into that decision. The primary variable for me is what gives us – the New Orleans Saints – the best opportunity to get that player signed to a multi-year deal? That’s the thing that I start with, and then it’s a matter of production. How likely is it that the player will get an offer from another team? What’s the position? Who do we have on our roster that if we lost the player we could replace him with? There are a lot of variables, but the primary one is what gives us the best chance to get the player signed to a multi-year deal."

Q: Have there been any contract talks with Brees on a raise?

"He has a contract for this year and for next year. That’s all I’m going to say about that."

Q: Would there be interest in giving him that raise sooner than later, or would there be difficulty in light of the uncertainty with the CBA?

"I’m not going to address that. I’ve said many times before that these contracts are personal issues for players. They’re business issues for our team, but they’re personal issues for our players. I don’t like the opportunity of talking about a specific player’s contract. I’ll talk about the principles behind RFA tenders and things like that, but until these things are completed I’m not going to discuss them."

Q: Do you like the idea of the Draft being split up over three days?

"That’s a good question. I don’t know because we haven’t gone through this before. This will be unique. When I think about it, one of the things that happens is that between Day One and Day Two, you reevaluate your board and you reevaluate the things that have happened, and all of a sudden the first picks the next day become more valuable. Instead of having one day of that, we now have two days of that so it will be interesting to see the activity that happens overnight on both of those days at the top of the next round."

Q: Do you think there will be more trades?

"There could be. It will certainly lead to more calls. But it will be interesting to see how that plays out."

Q: Is the time around the Draft a fun time of year for you or just a lot of stress?

"We look forward to it. It’s exciting to have new players come into your program. It’s the culmination of a year’s worth of work for our college scouting staff and our coaches are involved, so it’s an exciting time; it really is."

Q: At the Super Bowl, you said that you guys were a little behind but now you’ve said that you’re up to date. How have you been able to catch up?

"Really we were behind in terms of free agency more than anything else. The college staff andRick Reiprish and his area scouts have done a good job. They didn’t miss any time except for the four or five days that they were at the Super Bowl. They’ve been on top of it. When I said ‘behind,’ it meant that I wasn’t able to participate in some of their meetings in January and February and we would have already have had meetings with our coaches and college scouts and pro personnel people, so we’ve been able to catch up and have those meetings in terms of the pro free agents. We’re caught up in that regard. The other thing that helps us is the rules in the sense that we weren’t able to be a participant in the opening days of free agency. Even though we were behind, there wasn’t a whole lot we could do about it anyway."

Q: With so many big-name veteran players being released this year, how do you balance going after the "quick-fix" with an older player or going after a younger player with more years in his future?

"We’re not opposed to players that have a lot of experience in the league. We’ve shown that and we’ve had success with that – Darren Sharper being ‘exhibit A’. But it all comes down to value. Are we getting the right value for that particular player? When you look at an older player, you have to look at the investment. If you’re making an up-front investment, how likely is it that he’s going to play for your team for the length of the contract? We have to pay attention to all of that and we do. We’re not always right but those are the kinds of things that we pay attention to. With a younger player, you don’t have as much concern about them being able to play at a high level throughout the contract and therefore your investment up front might be a little greater."

Q: When you’re evaluating a veteran player, do you have in mind a minimum number of years that you want him to be productive?

"I would say no, because that could be one year. It could be a player that we think can come in and help us this year or it may be a guy that we’re counting on two or three years from. It just depends on the individual."