The New Orleans Saints had their reservations about right guard Larry Warford before they ever used their first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on center/guard Cesar Ruiz. But with Ruiz’ addition, Warford and his $12.85 million cap hit have now became expendable. The guard has been on a downward trajectory in terms of expected production and has fallen out of favor with the team. It seems almost certain that the team will move him ahead of the 2020 season in order to help load up for what could be quarterback Drew Brees’s last run.
New Orleans could simply cut Warford and recoup about $7.7 million towards the cap, but trading the guard could potentially bring back some type of return other than just the additional cap space. Here are five potential trade partners the Saints could work with to deal Warford.
The Seahawks need additional help along the offensive line after Germain Ifedi left in free agency to the Chicago Bears and Mike Iupati remains an injury concern. While Seattle has brought in significant help to bolster their line to protect quarterback Russell Wilson this offseason, most of that help is unproven, injury-prone, and nothing more than depth.
Warford would represent an instant upgrade to their offensive line, and would quell any questions around the injury-prone Iupati. While New Orleans would be trading a capable guard to a NFC rival, the additional cap space would create far more opportunity for the Saints to add a final piece to the roster. Seattle has nearly $21 million in free cap space, and while taking on Warford’s total contract would represent a significant chunk of that, the Seahawks have shown that the offensive line is a priority this offseason.
Future Hall of Famer right guard Marshal Yanda recently retired from football, and the Ravens have been left scrambling to find a suitable replacement. Ben Powers, a rookie last year, would be the likely in-house replacement, but the odds he could replace Yanda’s production is unlikely.
Another name added to the Ravens competition at RG, where they have to replace Marshal Yanda. https://t.co/xJ7HHsWg8E— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) April 28, 2020
Warford could be presented to Baltimore as a viable option that has a great resume. The Saints guard is far more proven than a rookie who hasn’t had much NFL experience after being inactive for the majority of his rookie year. The Ravens have a need and have the available cap space to upgrade their offensive line to help mitigate the loss of Yanda.
Over the course of the last few seasons the Miami offensive line has been abysmal at keeping Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen upright. In response, the Dolphins have brought in Ereck Flowers through free agency and have other versatile options that can help along the interior such as Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley. Both Hunt and Kindley were drafted in the second and fourth-round, respectively, again signaling that they are prioritizing the interior of the line.
What none of these options contain for Miami is the consistency and resume of Warford. With Tua Tagovailoa as the possible new starting quarterback, the Dolphins may want to add one more piece to the offensive line. They have the resources to make it happen.
It seems every season the Browns quickly become synonymous with “bad offensive line play” and the 2020 season doesn’t have a much better outlook. Cleveland has attempted to address the glaring issues at tackle when they selected Jedrick Wills Jr. with the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Joel Bitonio seems to be the only sure-fire player on the line at left guard, but as Browns fans have come to understand, nothing is “sure-fire”.
Cleveland's former Heisman winning quarterback Baker Mayfield has all the talent in the world, but his first few seasons have fallen far short of expectations. Mayfield has on average 2.72 seconds for his time to throw according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. For reference, that is slightly below average across the league. Saints quarterback Drew Brees has on average 2.57 seconds for his time to throw (second shortest amount of time in NFL), but that’s by design with shorter, more efficient routes. The Browns offense relies on long developing routes, which puts Mayfield in a poor position.
For the Browns offense to be successful, they need Mayfield to be successful and that means giving him longer amounts of time in the pocket and reducing pressure up front. Warford would be a significant upgrade along Cleveland’s interior and could give Mayfield the added time he needs to allow the routes to develop and make a decision.
We would be remiss if we did not add the Bill O’Brien led Texans on this list. Their offensive line is relatively set, and they have some huge investments in that group as far as both dollars and draft capital is concerned. One possible position of contention is left guard. Currently Zach Fulton occupies the spot, but much in the same way Warford is viewed by New Orleans, Fulton is viewed by Houston.
O’Brien could decide to cut Fulton to save some cap space, and flip right around and make a deal with the Saints for Warford. According to PFF, Warford is in a completely different class compared to Fulton as the former earned a grade of 73.1 to the latter’s 52.2. While the Texans remain the least likely trade partner out of those on this list, you never know what New Orleans could coax out of O’Brien, it’s worth a shot.
Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @KadeKistner