Orlando – The New Orleans Saints already have done a ton of work this offseason. But, make no mistake, there’s more to do.
Even after making significant strides in free agency – including the signings of quarterbacks Drew Brees and Tom Savage, cornerback Patrick Robinson, linebacker Demario Davis, safety Kurt Coleman, defensive end Alex Okafor and offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod – there are more steps to be taken.
Because according to Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis, this year’s team starts from ground zero. It doesn’t receive the benefit of any carryover from last year’s NFC South Division-winning team.
So New Orleans remains on the hunt for talent.
“I don’t think we’ve done everything that we’ve set out to do, but there’s still time left before the draft,” Loomis said Tuesday from the NFL’s Annual Meeting. “There’s still players out there and available and there’s other avenues – there’s trades. And yet, we’re always striving to be able to select someone that, at the time we’re picking, is hopefully the highest-rated guy on your board. Typically, what happens is you’ll have three or four in the same vicinity and then position comes into play. We’ll see what happens.
“We’re still in the process of evaluating and setting our (draft) board. We’ve got the coaches and scouts out at pro days right now, so there’s still a lot of work to be done. I think our initial blush is that there are some good players to be had in this draft. The unfortunate thing for us is we’ve got two picks in the first three rounds instead of five, like we did last year. So it’s not going to be the same, just by nature of volume.
“Last year doesn’t mean anything relative to this draft. We’re starting from ground zero, and we have to do every bit as good a job evaluating and then selecting the players when it’s our turn.”
As Loomis mentioned, there won’t be as many turns. New Orleans had five picks in the first three rounds last year, and added another via trade, in order to select cornerback Marshon Lattimore (first), offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk (first), safety Marcus Williams (second), and running back Alvin Kamara, linebacker Alex Anzalone and defensive end Trey Hendrickson (third).
But there is time to continue making additions before the draft.
SMOOTH TRANSITION: Loomis said that the first Annual Meeting he attended without Tom Benson went as smoothly as it could have, primarily because Gayle Benson made it so. Gayle Benson now is the sole owner of the Saints and New Orleans Pelicans. Tom Benson died March 15.
“She’s stepped right in, fit right in and she’s on top of it,” Loomis said. “And we all expected that. She’s been to these meetings, Mr. B got her involved in a lot of different things and so, I think it was pretty comfortable for her.
“She has not been just on the sideline. She’s been involved in a lot of meetings and discussions and decisions over the past 13 years, so I think all of us expected her to step right in and do a great job and a smooth transition. And that’s what it’s been.”
Loomis also lauded Gayle Benson’s strength throughout the process of Tom Benson’s illness and passing.
“She’s just so strong,” he said. “And how she’s handled the last month. A lot of times when you go through adversity it reveals character and the type of person that you are. And she’s just been a champion, and really strong for all of us, too.
“None of us would have been surprised, or kind of expected, that she’d want to just take a little bit of time to herself and go home and just have some private time. But she wanted to come and get involved and I think part of that was she wanted to show all of us, and New Orleans, that she can handle being the owner of the New Orleans Saints. So I’m not surprised at all, because we know what kind of person she is and how strong she is. But it is remarkable.”
For Loomis, it obviously was a different meeting, too. And there will be a lot of times which will trigger a remembrance of Tom Benson.
“I think it’s going to be like this for a while – when you have these experiences that you’re used to having him right there by your side, you get a little emotional at times,” Loomis said. “There was a couple of times during the meeting that I’m thinking, ‘Mr. B wouldn’t like this,’ or, ‘He would like this.’ You get a little choked up.”