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Saints should talk trades with NFC arms race heating up

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With more winning teams than playoffs bracket spots, the NFC will be even more competitive in 2018.

LOS ANGELES, CA - New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara breaks free for a long scoring run against the Los Angeles Rams defense during a regular season game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
LOS ANGELES, CA - New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara breaks free for a long scoring run against the Los Angeles Rams defense during a regular season game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

My thirst to see the New Orleans Saints trade for a playmaking linebacker is well-documented. I don’t care how they get it done, I just want to see an elite talent like Minnesota Vikings star Anthony Barr go chase quarterbacks in New Orleans, or watch Seattle Seahawks standout Bobby Wagner import some of their winning ways. I nearly spoke a big-time move for New England Patriots troubled son Malcolm Butler into existence last year, but it never materialized.

This weekend’s blockbuster trade did nothing to ease my nerves. The Los Angeles Rams are just as close to competing for a title as the Saints, and they just fleeced the Kansas City Chiefs in a move for cornerback Marcus Peters. Peters is a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback at 25-years old who has led the NFL in pass disruptions since entering the league.

This is the kind of move the Rams needed to make to take the next step. They somehow got knocked out of the playoffs by the Atlanta Falcons last year, but second-year head coach Sean McVay immediately got to work with general manager Les Snead and brought in Peters as the first step in their offseason strategy. It remains to be seen whether they’ll be able to keep Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner, but they’re shaping up to field one of Wade Phillips’ scarier secondaries.

The cash-strapped Falcons don’t have many holes. They’re just a moment of clarity away from second-year play caller Steve Sarkisian figuring out how to shift gears. Still, they’re a dangerous rival in the NFC South who the Saints haven’t swept since 2015. New Orleans has to make a big move to silence any doubts.

Philadelphia Eagles fans are just now sobered up to return to work, having celebrated their team’s elusive Super Bowl victory in horrific fashion. But they proved Nick Foles can manage the shop while Carson Wentz is on the mend, and are returning nearly all of their title-winning starters to this year’s team. The inevitable Eagles-Saints clash in the Superdome has to be broadcast in prime time, and New Orleans needs to be ready.

I won’t dwell on them because I’m still too bitter and hurt, but the Minnesota Vikings are right up there again as one of the favorites. Case Keenum played himself into a payday while Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater are scheduled to hit the open market, leaving Minnesota’s starting quarterback job free for Kirk Cousins’ taking. Whether Vikings general manager Rick Spielman can outbid John Elway and the Denver Broncos for Cousins is another story.

If you look past those initial threats you’ll see a conference in chaos. Jimmy Garappolo and the San Francisco 49ers are sprinting into competence while Cam Newton and the rudderless Carolina Panthers just guaranteed Matt Kalil, aka Speedbump McGee, $10-million in feel-good money. The Seattle Seahawks purged their coaching staff after a lackluster roster collapsed from too many years of neglect. Things are in flux from coast to coast.

I don’t know who the Saints could make a play for. Miami Dolphins franchise tag recipient Jarvis Landry has been a popular connection, and he could absolutely erase New Orleans’ deficiencies in the slot. I suggested as such before last season’s trade deadline. I’d prefer a linebacker given the Saints’ spotty recent history in drafting and developing them, as well as a free agent group that looks thin.

Whatever happens, I bet it’ll be big. Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis have stood pat too often for too many years now. They’re gamblers by nature, and if they see an opportunity to make a splash you had better believe they’ll move heaven and earth to make it happen. And with the rest of the NFC getting armed for bear, now is the time to stay on the cutting-edge.