"The first thing I want to do is express my gratitude to our personnel department, to our area scouts – Jim Monos, Barrett Wiley, Dwaune Jones, Dave Hinson, Josh Lucas, Terry Wooden – and we have some in-house guys – Jason Mitchell, Joey Laine, our college scouting director, Rick Reiprish and our personnel director, Rick Mueller. These guys log thousands of miles, they spend a lot of nights away from their families, they write a few thousand reports – they're evaluating 1,300 college football players – all for us to select six guys this weekend that are going to impact our football team. They fill a critical role for our organization and they're too often overlooked, so the first thing I want to do is to express how grateful I am to them and the great job they do for us.
"We've had what I think is a productive offseason so far. We've been able to re-sign a number of our own unrestricted free agents, guys that contributed to our football team last year and in years past, and we've been able to add a few guys that we're excited about that we think can improve our team from a year ago.
"We have six draft picks this weekend. We've already started our draft – we used our fourth-round choice to select Jonathan Vilma from the New York Jets in a trade that we made with them. We feel like we're off to a good start. We're prepared, we're ready to go for this weekend and we're anxious to see what happens."
Question: With the changes in time allowed per pick, do you see that affecting you?
Loomis: "A little bit, in that I think you need to do a little more preliminary work with regard to trade discussions. We won't have as much time during the day to negotiate compensation if we're going to make a trade. You have to have a pretty good idea of what that might be ahead of time. At this point, that's the only impact that I can see. As far as draft day itself, that remains to be seen."
Question: What positions do you perceive as the strongest in this draft?
Loomis: "I don't know that I have a good answer for that yet. There are a lot of good players in this draft. We feel like we'll be able to get good players really throughout the draft. We like what we see defensively – we've had more focus on the defensive side of the ball just because of where we're at. But we like the group of players in the draft and I'm pretty confident that we'll get some good players. As to the specific positions, I don't think that I want to comment on that."
Question: Are reports that you've inquired about the second pick accurate?
Loomis: "I'll say this – we've talked to a number of teams in front of us about the possibilities of moving forward. It's all preliminary discussion; nothing concrete, just we've expressed a desire to talk about it with a number of teams."
Question: Do you feel that you're in a position to be aggressive in moving up or down if there's a player that you like?
Loomis: "I think that depends on what it costs to move, in effect. The first step is to get an idea of what the cost to move forward is going to be. That's really what the discussions to date have been; A – are you interested in moving backwards, B – what is your thinking in terms of compensation? There have been a few talks about that."
Question: In general, you have seemed to have an aggressive philosophy in both directions. How do you view the draft and trades? Do you think that some teams shy away from trades?
Loomis: "I don't know that anybody shies away from it, you're just looking to get value for your pick. Value is dependent upon how you view your own team. There have been cases in the past where we've wanted to move backwards and get more football players. There have been cases where we've had a specific guy targeted and have wanted to move forward to make that happen. I wouldn't want to speak for anyone else other than our own team, and it kind of depends on how you view yourself."
Question: What is the goal of the team in regards to a new contract for Will Smith?
Loomis: "I don't have a timetable for that. We've had some discussions in the past with Will and his agent and have recently had some discussions about his contract situation, but he's under contract for this year and hopefully we'll be able to work out a deal that works for him and works for us and have him for the long-term. I don't have a timetable for that – I'm not going to put a deadline because I think they're artificial anyway. Any time before free agency works for me and sometimes it's even during free agency. There's a desire on our part to have Will Smith be a part of our team in the future and I think there's a desire on Will's part to part of the Saints as well, so that's a good start."
Question: How much can your draft board change in the final days leading up to the draft?
Loomis: "There's some tinkering. It's generally not at the top of the board, but more in the middle and toward the end, but there's still some tinkering going on. You're using every minute and every piece of information that you can gather, and again our scouts and our coaches are doing a great job of looking at guys, re-looking at guys, collecting information and moving guys around a little bit. It's not dramatic, but I would call it tinkering."
Question: It appears that Miami already has a deal with Jake Long to be the first overall pick. How strange is it to see that occur so far ahead of Saturday? Does that speed up things from your perspective in terms of talking to teams at two or three?
Loomis: "It might. I don't know yet because I don't know what those teams in front of us are planning. It's been pretty well-documented and written that they've been talking with Jake Long for a few days, so it's no surprise. I don't think it will impact the discussions that we have. At the end of the day, any trade that we make is more than likely – if it happens – going to happen during the draft, it's not going to happen before then."
Question: The team has made some deals to add defensive backs in the offseason. Is it still a possibility that if Chevis Jackson were there in the second round that you might pick him up or are you guys set at corner?
Loomis: "I wouldn't want to comment on who, or even on the position that we're looking at, but anything is a possibility. When you're talking about the second round or third round, you just don't know who's going to be available and who will be taken in front of you. All of our options are open at that point."
Question: Where do you feel this team is talent-wise at this point heading into the draft?
Loomis: "That's a good question. Generally, I think we're happy with our roster but obviously you're always looking to improve your team and we certainly can improve. We've had a top five offense the last two years and our defense hasn't been in the top five, so that's probably the side of the ball that we're going to look to. But again, we have a history hear of taking the best football player available when we're drafting. Two years ago, that best football player wound up being Reggie Bush and there have been other times that we've taken players at positions that you wouldn't have thought we would select a player at. Our philosophy is going to remain the same. What we're hoping for is that the best available football player when we pick matches a position that we would call a need for a team."
Question: Looking at where you're picking this year as opposed to last year, do you take into consideration how much the player can contribute right away?
Loomis: "I think there's an expectation when you're picking in the top 10 that that guy is going to come in and be a contributor right away. The pressure that that guy has on him and that we have on us to select a player that can contribute right away is much greater than a year ago when we were picking in the 20s and we were getting a player that didn't have those kind of expectations on him, or at least they weren't as great, so maybe you had a little more time to bring him along. With the way that contract values are and expectations, we in the front office and our coaches and the media put on these guys, (the pressure) is much greater at pick 10. At the end of the day, you're not going to put a player on the field that's not ready to play regardless of where you take him."
Question: In the evaluations that you've made on these players, would you say that it's a deep draft?
Loomis: "I think we would say that it's a good year. Every year, I read that it's not a very good year it seems like, but there are always a lot of guys that have an impact right away and then there are guys that develop and end up being elite players in the league from every draft. There are good players out there; we just have to find them."
Question: Is there a specific player that you would be going after when you talk to teams about trading up?
Question: You've talked about the possibility of moving up and the value of having a top 10 pick. Is it fair to say that you'd have to be overwhelmed to move down out of the top 10?
Loomis: "I don't know that you have to be overwhelmed, but you certainly have to feel like you're going to get good value and that when you do pick that you're going to get a good player that has good value at the selection point. We've moved down in the past, but I don't really foresee us doing that this year. But you never know. I don't know who's going to be taken in those nine picks in front of us and that might cause us to say, 'Wait a minute, let's slide back,' if that opportunity comes to us. I wouldn't want to close the door on moving down. At this point, I haven't had any discussions with anyone about moving backwards."
Question: Do you treat the draft differently if you feel like your team can win this year in that you'd rather get as many players that can help right away and not in developmental positions?
Loomis: "I think you always go in with the attitude that you want to compete for the championship right now, that's just the way that this league is. I think part of it is when you look at your own roster, how many spots are up for grabs? What are the chances of someone making your team? The first round is considerably different than the later rounds, but you're always conscious of, 'Can this player make our team?' I don't think there's a conscious decision on our part. We're just trying to improve our team, regardless of where you think you're at in the hierarchy of the league."
Question: Looking at the group of running backs and not fully knowing the status of Deuce McAllister, does that influence you as far as maybe taking a running back earlier than you might?
Loomis: "It could. It depends on when we're picking and who's available. There are some good running backs in this draft, no question about it, but that's one of those things that's going to be a draft day decision – who's there when we're picking? If the best football player available at the time that we're picking happens to be a running back, we're not going to shy away from it."
Question: Has Robert Meachem done anything in the offseason to ease your concern about the wide receiver position?
Loomis: "He's done a lot. He's had to this point what we would characterize as a great offseason. He's worked very hard and really never took any time off from the end of last season. He's worked with David Patten, who is a great role model for him, he's in great shape, he doesn't have any of the issues with his knee that he had a year ago and he's done a great job in the weight room in the offseason conditioning program to date and he did a lot of work before he came to us and he looks fantastic. There's a determination that you can hear in his voice and see in his eyes about wanting to prove that he was worthy of being a first-round pick, so we feel real good about Robert Meachem right now."
Question: Was there ever a time during last year's regular season that he was 100% healthy?
Loomis: "Maybe toward the end of the year in practice we saw some flashes of what we anticipated from him, but that knee bothered him for quite a while."
Question: Is your situation complicated by the fact that Deuce is coming off of a serious injury and Mike McKenzie is coming off of a serious injury? Do you sort of have to project where these guys will be come training camp and the start of the regular season?
Loomis: "I would say that yes, that definitely impacts us to some degree, but we're optimistic about both of those guys. Mike is doing really well in his rehab and Deuce is doing really well in his, so we're optimistic about both of those guys. I talk to their doctors and their trainers once a week just monitoring their progress and everything we've heard so far has been real positive – no setbacks – and that's encouraging."
Question: You said you used your fourth-round pick on Vilma. Is there another condition to that trade?
Loomis: "There are some conditions that would take place after the season and into next year's draft. I'd rather not disclose those at this time, but if they happen they'll become evident."
Question: Without naming any players in particular, are there any reports that you want to refute?
Loomis: "I'm not going to make any reference to any of the things that have been written."