The NBA's New Orleans Pelicans traded former first overall pick Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers last week in one of the bigger blockbuster deals in recent memory. While Davis is one of the most exciting young players in basketball, he netted a high draft pick and multiple talented players in return. Some Pelicans fans may be disappointed to see a talented player leave the city in his prime, but it's far from the first time New Orleans sports fans have watched their team move on from a big time talent. Today, in the first of a two part piece, we look at some of the New Orleans Saints greats that the franchise has traded away, some with mixed results at best.
Abramowicz remains one of the favorites of older Saints fans to this day. An undersized receiver (even for that era) with little speed, Abramowicz was an afterthought as a 17th round draft choice by the expansion New Orleans Saints in 1967. He fought his way into the starting lineup midway through his (and the team's) first season, and would go on to have a standout career for a franchise that struggled mightily. Abramowicz would finish in the NFL's top ten in both receptions and receiving yardage in three straight seasons between 1968-70, and would earn Sporting News All-Pro recognition in 1969, when he caught 73 passes for 1,015 yards and 7 touchdowns. He held the NFL record at one point by catching at least one pass in 105 consecutive games. Abramowicz finished his seven year New Orleans career with 309 receptions for 4,875 yards and 37 touchdowns. All were franchise records for many years, and led to him being one of the first inductees to the Saints Hall of Fame in 1988.
Abramowicz was traded to the San Francisco 49ers early in the 1973 season, where he played out the last two years of his career. The Saints moved on from Abramowicz during the final stretch of his playing career, but the same cannot be said for the rest of the players on our list, who like Davis were moved during their prime.
Muncie was one of the most talented players in Saints history. Selected with the 3rd overall pick in the 1976 draft by New Orleans, Muncie had a rare blend of power, speed, and elusiveness that even drew some comparisons to Cleveland Browns great Jim Brown. Muncie had 3,393 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns in a little over four seasons with New Orleans, including the first 1,000 yard rushing season (1,198 during a Pro Bowl campaign in 1979) in Saints history. Unfortunately, Muncie was as equally troubled as he was talented. Cocaine addiction and other substance abuse issues haunted him throughout his career. Four games into the 1980 season after a handful of late meetings and practices, New Orleans traded the troubled back to the San Diego Chargers in return for a second round pick in the 1981 draft.
Muncie moved from one high powered offense in New Orleans to an even better one with San Diego. He was a huge part of one of the AFC's premier teams in 1980, '81, and '82, although on teams that would fall shy of Super Bowl expectations. Muncie made Pro Bowls in '81 and '82, rushing for 1,184 yards and a league record 19 touchdowns for a historically productive 1981 Chargers offense. He would rush for 3,309 and 43 touchdowns in about four seasons of action with San Diego, but couldn't outrun his personal demons. Addiction led to his release from the Chargers in 1984, and retirement a short time later after two failed comeback attempts.
Muncie would eventually clean up his life, after an 18 month stay in prison. Despite his production, Muncie has never been inducted into either the Saints or Chargers franchise Hall of Fame, but served in multiple charities and community organizations until his death in 2013.
The Saints would use the 1981 2nd round draft choice obtained in the Muncie trade (51st overall) to draft linebacker Rickey Jackson, who would go on to a future NFL Hall of Fame career and become one of the Saints greatest players of all time. New Orleans had one of the NFC's most talented offenses in 1978 and '79 though, a unit that began to break up with the dealing of Muncie in 1980. It wouldn't be the last of the team's explosive offensive stars to be on the move.
Childs, one of the better tight ends in the NFL through the late 1970's, had excellent hands and could run as well as most wideouts. He had 207 receptions for 3,224 yards and 27 touchdowns from 1975-80 with the Saints, after joining them late in 1974 from Atlanta. Childs was a vital part of a productive New Orleans offense in 1978 and '79, catching a combined 104 passes for 1,715 yards and 9 scores, earning a bid to the 1979 Pro Bowl and getting elected to the franchise's Hall of Fame in 1994. He was traded to the Washington Redskins in late April of the 1981 offseason, as part of the Saints purge following a disastrous 1-15 1980 campaign.
Childs never played a game for Washington, getting dealt to the Los Angeles Rams for multiple mid-round picks less than a week after being acquired from New Orleans. Childs would play only one season for the Rams, catching 12 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. He attempted a comeback with the Packers in 1984, playing in just 4 games before retiring. New Orleans used the 3rd round pick they got for Childs to draft wide receiver Kenny Duckett, who had just 34 receptions for 503 yards and 4 scores as a reserve wideout and kick returner in four seasons.
Galbreath came to New Orleans as a 2nd round draft pick in 1976, the same draft that brought Muncie to the team the round prior. The Galbreath and Muncie duo became known as "Thunder and Lightning" for the next five years. Galbreath quickly became the NFL's most productive receiving back to go along with his rushing skills. He was sixth in the league in receptions as a rookie, and would be second in the NFL in the same category with 74 receptions in 1978. Galbreath would have 284 catches for 2,221 yards and six touchdowns, while adding 2,865 rushing yards and 27 scores on the ground during his five year career with New Orleans, eventually getting inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 1991. He was traded to the Minnesota Vikings just days before the 1981 regular season opener in exchange for a third round pick in the 1982 draft.
Galbreath would play two somewhat quiet years in Minnesota before joining the New York Giants in 1984, where he played the last four years of his career. He resumed his receiving prowess in New York, catching 126 passes in four seasons, and was the third down back on the Giants' Super Bowl XXI championship squad.
The Saints used the third round pick obtained for Galbreath to draft wideout Eugene Goodlow with the 66th overall pick. Goodlow played five years with the Saints, catching 115 passes for 1,677 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Chandler was one of the most acrobatic and exciting receivers of his time. He was drafted by the Saints with the 3rd overall pick in 1978 from Florida, and quickly became an important part of their explosive offense. Chandler became just the second Saints wideout to eclipse 1,000 yards in 1979, when he produced 1,069 yards with six touchdowns on 65 receptions, joining teammates Muncie, Childs, and Archie Manning in the Pro Bowl. He was productive in 1980 as well, with 975 yards and six touchdowns on 65 catches on a putrid 1-15 New Orleans squad. He would have 182 receptions for 2,801 yards and 15 touchdowns during his time with New Orleans, and was one of the league's most difficult wideouts to guard. Four games into the 1981 season though, the Saints stunned many by trading their talented young wideout to the San Diego Chargers. In exchange for Chandler, the Saints got back receiver Aundra Thompson, along with 1st and 3rd round picks in the 1982 draft.
The Chargers were looking for a dynamic wide receiver to replace John Jefferson, who they traded to Green Bay after a bitter contract dispute. San Diego found a willing partner in the Saints, and shipped off the 1st round pick and Thompson obtained in the deal with the Packers.
Chandler joined his former New Orleans teammate Muncie in San Diego, running roughshod over most NFL defenses. He would play seven seasons for the Chargers, earning three Pro Bowl bids and an All-Pro selection for one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history. Chandler totaled 373 receptions for 6,132 yards and 41 touchdowns for San Diego, and would eventually be inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame. He led the league in both yardage and receiving scores in 1982, with an incredible 1,032 yards in a strike-shortened nine games, a receiving average per game record that still stands.
The return that the Saints got for Chandler was well, simply awful. Aundra Thompson played in only 19 games with 2 starts for the Saints between 1982-83, catching just 14 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown. John Krimm, a defensive back from Notre Dame who was drafted in the third round, only played as a reserve in 1982 for the team. The Saints used the first round pick, the 13th overall selection, on wide receiver Lindsay Scott out of Georgia. Scott played four seasons for New Orleans before he was out of the league, and had only 69 receptions for 864 yards and one touchdown.
The purge of the New Orleans offensive star power through the late 1970's would finally conclude one year after Chandler was dealt, ending with the face of the Saints franchise.
Manning was taken with the 2nd overall pick of the 1971 draft, and would be arguably the face of the entire Gulf Coast region over the next decade. He would win only 27% of his starts in his eleven year career with the Saints, but often gave opposing defenses fits with his skills despite poor talent around him. Once the team began to surround him with talent the likes of Muncie, Galbreath, Childs, and Chandler, Manning's abilities would stand out greatly. The quarterback earned Pro Bowl berths in both 1978 and '79, throwing for 6,585 yards and 32 scores while leading them just shy of the playoffs in both years. Manning would throw for 21,734 yards during his Saints career, second only to Drew Brees on the team's all-time yardage list, and along with Abramowicz would be the first inductee into the Saints Hall of Fame in 1988.
The Saints brought on coach Bum Phillips in 1981 to turn around the team's fortunes after their epic 1-15 failure the prior year. Phillips and the front office had already moved on from Galbreath, Childs, and Chandler in '81 to implement their coach's run-first philosophy. Ultimately, the coach decided to make a change behind center as well, electing to install Ken Stabler over Manning at quarterback early in the 1982 season. The Saints would trade Archie Manning in September of 1982 to Phillips' former team, the Houston Oilers, in return getting former All-Pro offensive tackle Leon Gray, who would play two seasons with the Saints before retiring in 1983.
A now broken down Manning was a shell of his former self in Houston, going 0-8 as a starter in 1982-83 before being dealt to the Minnesota Vikings midway through the '83 season. He would appear in eight games, going 0-2 as a starter, for the Vikings in the next two years, retiring after the 1984 season.
Bum Phillips implanted his offensive philosophy immediately upon his arrival to to New Orleans, selecting Heisman Trophy winning running back George Rogers with the 1st pick in the 1981 draft. Rogers would star in his coach's run heavy offense, leading the league with a rookie record 1,674 yards (along with 13 touchdowns) and winning Rookie of the Year along with All-Pro honors. After another Pro Bowl berth during a strike shortened '82 season, Rogers became the first back in Saints history to have more than one 1,000-yd. season in 1983 with a 1,144 yard effort. Much like talented running back Chuck Muncie before him though, Rogers struggled with cocaine addiction through most of his young life. Phillips would trade for his former back in Houston during the '84 season, Hall of Famer Earl Campbell, to split time with Rogers. Although Rogers still led the Saints with 914 yards rushing in 1984, New Orleans would trade him to the Washington Redskins prior to the '85 draft for a 1st round draft pick in return.
The Saints used the 24th overall pick obtained from the Redskins to draft linebacker Alvin Toles, who would play only four NFL seasons. Toles would start 15 games in his second season, but only had two starts in his other three years combined. Rogers meanwhile, would rush for over 1,000 yards in both 1985 and 1986 for Washington, leading the league in '86 with 18 rushing touchdowns. He was the primary back during the Redskins Super Bowl XXII championship team, although he ran for only 17 yards in the big game, and retired after the '87 season because of nagging injuries. Rogers, who would finally overcome his struggles with addiction, rushed for 4,267 and 23 touchdowns in four seasons with the Saints, and was inducted into the franchise's Hall of Fame in 1992.
Next Up: we look at some Saints star players who were traded away through the 1990's and 2000's.