Meet the newest member of the New Orleans Saints, defensive back Eli Apple.
All of the chips haven't been shoved to the middle of the table.
But with Tuesday's bold move by the New Orleans Saints – acquiring cornerback Eli Apple from the New York Giants in exchange for fourth- and seventh-round draft picks in 2019 and '20, respectively – it's the latest showing that the franchise has its eyes on this year's Super Bowl, and is willing to do what it takes to reach the NFL's biggest game.
It's an open secret that the Saints (5-1), NFC South Division leaders and winners of five straight games, need an upgrade at cornerback.
One starting cornerback spot is manned by Marshon Lattimore, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year last season. Enough said. But the other has been a mixed bag, with mixed results yielded by Ken Crawley and P.J. Williams. Neither is solely to blame for the fact that New Orleans currently allows 293.7 passing yards per game, fifth-most in the league, and opposing quarterbacks have 13 touchdowns versus two interceptions, and a rating of 112.2, second-worst in the league.
And, obviously, it didn't help New Orleans' cause when Patrick Robinson was lost for the season in Week 3.
But the spot opposite Lattimore had been picked out and picked on this season. The Saints saw a means to strengthen it, and they took it Tuesday. The price, and the value, was right.
Apple is a former first-round pick (No. 10 overall, to the Giants in '16) who has started 23 of the 30 games he has played. He has an interception, 20 passes defensed, a forced fumble and five fumble recoveries, including one against Atlanta on Monday night.
True, there were reported off-field issues that arose with the Giants. But the Saints have four factors working in their favor.
First, New Orleans is as knowledgeable about players from Ohio State as any NFL franchise. Four former Buckeyes – Lattimore, receiver Michael Thomas and safeties Vonn Bell and Kurt Coleman – are on the current roster. The Saints have a good idea what makes them tick, and they likely wouldn't make such a move without feeling comfortable that the intel they already have on file is an accurate assessment.
Second, Lattimore, Thomas and Bell were teammates with Apple at Ohio State. It isn't so much that they'll "keep him in line, as they immediately will give him a sense of brotherhood and belonging. They know how well he's capable of playing, and he'll get to show that to them again. It bears noting that Apple played well for the Giants this season.
Third, he probably needed a change of scenery. Not that it was toxic with the Giants, but the relationship wasn't ideal and sometimes, a new zip code can be a needed jump-start.
Fourth, the Saints are winning. And they have a chance to continue winning. And Apple has an opportunity to be a significant contributor to that winning. He was a Giant who was on the receiving end of New Orleans' 33-18 hammering of New York in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sept. 30, so Apple has first-hand knowledge of the kind of team he'll be joining.
It's a team that has been bold in its pursuit of a Super Bowl appearance this year, from signing linebacker Demario Davis as an unrestricted free agent, to moving up in the draft to select defensive end Marcus Davenport with the 14th overall pick, to adding Coleman to help bolster the secondary.
Apple is the latest in that line.
All the chips haven't been shoved into the middle of the table. But the Saints are all in for doing what's necessary for meeting stakes that have been raised.