New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis
Press Conference at NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix
Monday, March 23, 2015
I know you addressed it earlier, temporarily, but the (Drew) Brees trade rumors, I mean just…
"I don't know where those got manufactured from. I haven't made a single call asking anybody about Drew Brees. I think that's just in general some media members that have too much time on their hands and they start coming up with these 'what if' scenarios."
What has your philosophy this off season been? Obviously tons of moves.
"Look, there have been a few moves, I don't know about tons of moves. We have done some things. I say this to you guys every year – we've got what ultimately ends up being a list somewhere around 19 or 20 items that we want to get accomplished in an offseason. I didn't really think that this year was any different than any other year other than there are a couple of names involved and a couple of moves involving names that people are familiar with and good players and obviously trades aren't as common in other sports as they are in the NFL so when you do a big trade, it gets a lot of attention. We've never put a 'for sale' sign out on all of our players. I read that a couple times and that anything and everything was up for grabs and that was never true. At the same time you get calls from teams all the time asking about certain things and certain players and we're always available to listen but that doesn't mean we're shopping players or that we're trying to make wholesale roster changes or anything in the way that some of these articles describe it."
So you guys didn't set out to trade Jimmy Graham? Was that just something that kind of came together?
"I think that evolved and we're trying to do some things to help our overall team. We've been fortunate to have a really good offense for the entire time that Sean Payton has been our head coach. I think we've finished first in the NFL five of the nine years. Has he coached for us nine years? Is that what it is? So five of the nine years I think we've finished first and we've finished in the top five every year that he has been our head coach and the one time that he was suspended we still managed to finish sixth in the NFL. We've been able to generate offense throughout that period and yet our defense has been up and down so when you look at your team, you're trying to assess the assets that you have and how can we help ourselves in areas of weakness. Sometimes that requires you to take a strength of your team and turn it into something else. That trade just evolved that way."
Are you pleased with the moves that you've been able to make so far with Brandon Browner and such?
"I think this – yes, but the proof will be in the season and how it impacts our team. I think every team would say that they're pleased with the things that they've done in an offseason and we're no different. There are some things that we've been able to do. We've still got a long ways to go and there are other players available and an important draft for us coming up. We've got five picks in the first three rounds and we have to take advantage of that."
What went into your decision of letting Curtis Lofton go and then trading Ben Grubbs? I mean obviously you have two significant holes that you need to address.
"I think, like anything else, there are lots of variables involved. Both of those guys were good players for us and did a lot of really good things and have tread on the tires – both of them. When you look at your team, construction of the cap and just every variable on your team, you have to do some things. So all of those pieces were involved in those decisions."
How flexible do you think your guys will be with the draft picks? Obviously you picked up one with the Jimmy Graham trade and one with the (Ben) Grubbs trade. That was obviously something you guys wanted to seek out this offseason with some of these moves, right?
Well, yes. That's the way this has turned out and we have a lot of draft picks and we'll see if we pick or if we trade, but we'll see what happens as we get closer to the draft and into the draft."
One of the things that was said last year was that so much turnover maybe led to some issues, in the locker room and the team coming together. Are you concerned that could happen again with so many guys going in and out?
"I think this – every year and every time is different and yet we've got a pretty core group of guys in that locker room. I'm pretty confident that we'll have that straightened out."
Did you straighten it out with Keenan Lewis with his comments?
"What are you talking about? What do you mean?"
Keenan Lewis – I'm assuming that situation calmed down. He kind of backed off some of his feelings.
"Well I think this – I don't know about all of that. I only know what Keenan has told me directly and I know this; he loves playing for the Saints and he loves the city of New Orleans, being around his family and being around this team. I think for him, his dream is to have a long career with the Saints and finish with the Saints and so there is nothing wrong with that. He is an emotional player, but that's part of what makes him such a good player for us."
Not to say that one guy can replace one guy, but does an improving Josh Hill make the Jimmy Graham trade a little easier to do or a little more palpable?
"I think this – Jimmy (Graham) is a special player. We've got players that we've got confidence in, in Benjamin (Watson) and Josh (Hill) and there will be other guys on offense that help pick up the production that he has had for us and Mark Ingram can do more and C.J. Spiller and Brandin Cooks we have high hopes for – we've seen some good things from him. It's not just any one person necessarily replacing his production, it's a number of guys on our team."
You mentioned offensive guys and one that's not there is Kenny Stills. What lead that process or trade?
"I think, again, just being able to acquire more assets. He is a good player and will do a great job for Miami (Dolphins) but I kind of look at it like we were able to take a fifth round pick and turn it into a third round pick and be able to have the opportunity to have a player come in, along with that. So that's what went into that."
Jahri Evans is a guy a lot of people have speculated about. Is he going to be back or is that still up in the air?
"Yes, Jahri is on our roster and he's on our team, yes."
How much did you target (C.J.) Spiller? Obviously you guys think he has a lot to bring to the table.
"I wouldn't say that we went into free agency thinking that we were going to go after another running back and certainly a player his caliber. At some point during the course of free agency, it started to make sense for us, in terms of the makeup of our team and the cost to acquire. I would say that, I wouldn't say that he fell to us – that would be a little extreme, but it's not something that we went into free agency thinking that we would be able to accomplish."
With what you've been able to do in free agency and the trades, are you guys now in a position draft-wise to draft the best guy available, are you in that position then?
"I think we're always in that position. You go into free agency looking to fill the holes that you have on your roster and so the goal obviously is to get to that point where you're taking the best player available in the draft process, but – the 'but' is this: when you pick, there are generally three or four players that are grouped together and then you're looking at 'hey, what positions make the most sense for us?' so it's a combination of taking the best player available and being able to fulfill a hole on your team."
A guy that you don't talk about, but was part of the Jimmy (Graham) trade is Max Unger. Is he somebody that you guys targeted? What do you guys like about him? I know sealing up the middle on an offensive line is one of the big musts.
"We're really excited to have Max a part of our team. First, he comes from a winning team there in Seattle (Seahawks) and they've had a lot of success and he has been a big part of that. He's had a couple Pro Bowls, high character, smart player, good leadership. There are a lot of adjectives we can use for him and we like all of them so we're looking forward to having him in our offseason program and getting him integrated with our team."
Does that put Tim (Lelito) more as a guard now or does he kind of stay as a swing guy?
"Yes, I think we're going to have a competition for that left guard spot and I would say, coming into camp that he's probably the leader but we'll see what happens in this offseason. He's got some versatility, Tim does and that's a good find for us. A good find by our scouts and our coaches and our offensive line coach to develop Tim and we feel confident that he can play both guard and center and we'll just see how it turns out during training camp."
Same thing on (Dannell) Ellerbe – what do you guys see in him?
"Dannell is a good player and was part of the Baltimore (Ravens) Super Bowl team and went to Miami and he had some unfortunate luck with injuries and so we're looking forward to having him back and getting him completely healthy and being a big part of our club and being a big part of our defense. I'd say the same thing about him – he's of high character, good leadership skills and so we're looking forward to having him as a part of our team, as well."
There have been reports that Jeff Ireland is now assistant general manager, is that right? Has his role changed at all since he's been here?
"Yes, Jeff's title is assistant general manager and his primary function is to head college scouting and be head director in that area, but he has a lot of experience and his experience as a general manager will be an asset for us. I can bounce some things off of him, as well as Terry Fontenot, our pro director, so I'm really confident and excited about the group that we have. We lost a real good man in Ryan Pace, who has moved on to bigger and better things with Chicago (Bears) and he'll do a great job there but I'm really confident in the guys that we have. We had a number of guys, not just those two, but we had a number of guys in our building that were ready to move up and do more and they are doing that. Dwaune Jones and Mike Baugh – there are a number of guys in our building and a part of our staff that are capable and so we'll be asking more of them."
This is kind of off topic, but what's your reaction to Darren Sharper pleading guilty? Obviously he was a big part of what you were doing?
"I don't know that I want to voice a reaction to it. Obviously it's tragic and disappointing. This is serious stuff and I just don't know enough about it to really make a comment on it."
This is off topic, but lighter – (Dan) "Chief" (Simmons) is retiring.
"That's a lot lighter!"
Just your thoughts on the longest-tenured Saints employee?
"I could go on – just on and on about Chief. He's, what is he, 100 years with the franchise? You talk about a guy that has meant a lot to our franchise, long before I was ever involved with it and has the respect and the admiration of everyone that has been in contact with him. I've heard from a lot of players from 40 years ago wanting to know, 'hey, what can I do to help Chief? What can I do to help honor him?' All these sorts of comments that reflect what a great job he has done for us and how much the people that he has taken care of, care for him. It's a mixed reaction because we hate losing him and it just won't be the same coming to work and him not being there. That'll be different because that hasn't happened for, what is it – 42 years. It's exciting to see one guy be with the franchise that long and be able to retire on his own terms. He has seen everything I think there is to see in the NFL with a NFL franchise. We're going to count on him, he's going to take another role with us – heading up our alumni legends program. He's the perfect guy for that."
How much, if any, has the ownership thing taken a toll on Mr. Benson? Has it taken a noticeable toll?
"That's a question for him, not for me, although he seems the same to me. Personally, I haven't been too worried about it. He's the same as he has always been, to me. He's had a difficult time with his knee in the last year, but he asks me the same tough questions. I give him the same information that I have been for the last 12 or 14 years here. He just doesn't seem a lot different to me. That's a difficult issue that he's dealing with and I personally haven't been real worried about it."
You addressed Drew (Brees) earlier and people start wondering, when do you start looking for another quarterback, even though that could be a couple of years down the road? Is it better to be early than to be late there?
"That's a good question. I think that's something that you can't really force. I think we treat it just like we treat any position. We're always looking to get a good player at every position that can push the starting player in the position and can develop into a starter. Then he's either your starter or you have an asset that you can use and get something for later or be a great backup. I don't know that that has changed any and we're not going to be able to just force a pick and take somebody just because we think that Drew is getting older. It has got to be the right guy at the right time and that hasn't happened yet."
What's your confidence level in Drew (Brees) and about trading?
"There hasn't been any talk about Drew trading from us. I have high confidence in Drew. I just said a little bit ago that we've finished number one in the league in offense five of the last nine years and we've been in the top five for eight of the last nine years. The one year, when Sean (Payton) was suspended, we finished sixth. I think that speaks for itself."
To keep the crazy things going that people are saying, with your talk about confidence in Drew, it would be highly unlikely that you would package your picks and take top quarterback?
"Well, we'll have to see what happens in the draft. You're giving me a lot of 'what ifs' here."
There is a lot of crazy talk out there and people ask us so we have to ask you.
"I think it's mostly crazy talk."