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ESPN Grades Saints Free Agency: Point, Counter Point

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ESPN or as I like to call them, Extra Silly Pundits spouting Nonsense, has an article grading all 32 teams. Free-agency grades for every team. Caution, requires insider access to view. I'll post the Saints FA grading below as well as my opinions on their opinions.

Here's Sean's "New" plan. Lock it and Load it!
Here's Sean's "New" plan. Lock it and Load it!
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Since what transpired in the 2012 offseason, I've largely lost respect for the once highly regarded sports site. The grading on the Saints offseason free agency moves is possibly an exception. The follow excerpt, from the post, is a pretty good assessment and a logical outlook from someone looking in from the outside.

ESPN's Saints Free Agency Moves Grading:


New Orleans Saints

Grade: B-minus

Key re-signings/additions: RB C.J. Spiller, CB Brandon Browner, LB Dannell Ellerbe, C Max Unger

Keysubtractions: DE Brandon Deaderick, CB Corey White, ILB Curtis Lofton, S Jamarca Sanford, C Jonathan Goodwin, ILB Moise Fokou, CB Patrick Robinson, WR Robert Meachem, RB Travaris Cadet, DE Tyrunn Walker, G Ben Grubbs, WR Kenny Stills, TE Jimmy Graham

This grade for New Orleans is on the conservative side. If the Saints maximize their newly found draft capital, their surprising approach to the offseason could pay off in a big way. For now, it's clear the team is willing to sacrifice offensive horsepower in an effort to become more of a physical, run-oriented team on offense while adding toughness on defense.

"This is a team that is really trying to change its identity to be tougher," Riddick said. "Re-signing Ingram, who was the fourth-best running back in free agency, was perfect. You can see why they signed Browner; they have had no luck at corner, including with their second-round pick last year. They will let scheme take care of it on offense while rebuilding the defense. That said, I do not understand how you can sign Graham to a market-setting contract and then trade him eight months later.

"Thanks to the Graham and Stills trades, New Orleans owns a league-high five picks in the first three rounds. Stockpiling draft choices represents a change in approach after the Saints made a league-low 28 total draft selections over the previous five years (40.1 was average).

"When you see a team make such significant changes and trade away players that are either franchise cornerstones or young like Kenny Stills, to me it screams that there is more to the story and more we need to know," Yates said. "These were not cap-related moves, but when they traded Grubbs and did not tender restricted free agents, that is usually a sign of cap trouble. What we do know is that the Saints did make themselves tougher with Ellerbe, Browner and Unger. Their moves look like a straight fire sale, but maybe it is all incredibly calculated and a shift toward being a different type of team.

"Polian saw the Graham trade as further evidence the Saints were willing to sacrifice offense to beef up their defense, which has been historically bad in two of the past three seasons. Williamson noted that Graham has been banged up in recent seasons. He said he could justify giving the Saints a B or B-plus grade.

"People will downgrade them in free agency and then laud them in the draft, but what they do in the draft is because of what they did in free agency," Williamson said.



As I said, this is a pretty fair assessment from ESPN. I have a few counter points to make though.

Key subtractions:?

Losses of failed cornerbacks, Corey White, and Patrick Robinson don't qualify as key subtractions in my opinion. It could be argued that a cheap deal for Patrick to fill the role at nickel back, might have been a solid move, so I'll give them that one partially.

A washed up Johnathan Goodwin,  WR Robert Meachem, and a weak depth DE, Brandon Deaderick, don't. The trade of the "declining" Ben Grubbs, was an obvious cap move, that resulted in much needed cap relief as well as a good draft pick. We obviously couldn't afford to pay both Grubbs and Jahri Evans, so I'm totally behind  this move.  Also, ILB Moise Fokou, who?!?! And how about some accuracy in your reporting. S Jamarca Sanford, is still on the team and will battle for a spot on the team, unless traded.

Next counter point:

For now, it's clear the team is willing to sacrifice offensive horsepower in an effort to become more of a physical, run-oriented team on offense while adding toughness on defense.

I would think that the addition of C.J. Spiller, and the resigning of Mark Ingram argue with this point. Sounds like both moves were to continue the Saints offensive theme. In fact the "key loss/trade" of Kenny Stills, further proves this point by strengthening the O-line to protect their starting QB Drew BreesMax Unger acquired in the Jimmy Graham trade will be a huge upgrade to the pocket Drew needs to be able to work his passing magic, a sore weak point in the 2014 season, was addressed here.

I do agree with the part about adding toughness on defense. CB Brandon Browner, addresses a key part of the new toughness on defense, as well as giving the Saints true flexibility in the draft. A healthy Dannell Ellerbe, will also increase the D's toughness and give more flexibility. While a tackle machine, Curtis Lofton, too often had to make those tackles after blown coverages, giving up too many yards  and 1st downs. His cap savings didn't hurt either.

I'm so over the Jimmy Graham trade. In fact I was against both the tag and cap killing contract last offseason. Now don't get me wrong, I think Jimmy is a great player, and talented, but not a complete TE, and I was and am, quite in love with Josh Hill, just like coach Sean Payton seems to be.

Next counter point:

"When you see a team make such significant changes and trade away players that are either franchise cornerstones or young like Kenny Stills, to me it screams that there is more to the story and more we need to know," Yates said.

No, you in fact don't need to know more. In fact,  I seriously doubt anyone involved, from coach Payton to the front office including Mickey Loomis and the scouting department, wants you to have anymore knowledge  than you already have. They have a plan, and the fact that you can't see beyond the splash moves to envision them, suits the team just fine.

I think this sums it up pretty well:

"People will downgrade them in free agency and then laud them in the draft, but what they do in the draft is because of what they did in free agency," Williamson said.

And I've already addressed  this point in another post.

Thanks to the Graham and Stills trades, New Orleans owns a league-high five picks in the first three rounds. Stockpiling draft choices represents a change in approach after the Saints made a league-low 28 total draft selections over the previous five years (40.1 was average).

The Saints Have Five Picks in the First 78 of the 2015 Draft

I'd say the B- grade  isn't too harsh from ESPN. My own personal grade for the Saints thus far is a strong B+. What's yours.