The offseason “to-do” list still has unchecked items on it, because everything can’t be accomplished in the narrow window that exists between February and April.
But the New Orleans Saints apparently like what the areas they’ve addressed on the list, with the NFL Draft, on Thursday through Saturday, the next task to be tackled.
New Orleans’ gains and supplements in free agency – which includes signing defensive tackle Malcom Brown, defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., running back Latavius Murray, returner Marcus Sherels and center Nick Easton, and re-signing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, linebacker Craig Robertson and safety Chris Banjo – better placed it in position to take the best player on its board, rather than stretch for a need.
“That’s always our goal,” Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis said Monday, during a predraft news conference with local media. “You have a list of items that we want to get accomplished in the offseason and I think for the most part, we did that.
“We’ll go into this draft and it’s a little different when you don’t have that first-round pick. We’re picking at 62, so it’s a lot tougher to predict who’s going to be there. But I like the position we’re in.”
The Saints, the two-time defending NFC South Division champions, do not have a first-round pick. New Orleans has a second-rounder (No. 62 overall), two fifths (168 and 177), a sixth (No. 202) and two sevenths (231 and 244) entering the draft.
But, Loomis said, the team is willing to explore the possibility of moving up or back in the draft, though moving into the first round might require more of a tax than New Orleans is willing to pay. Even if the Saints find a trade partner, the two sides might disagree on compensation.
“I think our view is, it’s a fairly deep draft and we’re pretty confident that we’re going to get a good player at 62,” Loomis said.
“It’s pretty hard to go from 62 into the first round. But we’ll see what happens. The honest truth is, we’ve got less ammunition, less things to trade this year than we’ve had in the past. So that makes it a lot more difficult (to move up).”
And regardless of who is drafted, it may be difficult to wedge into the Saints’ rotation at that position. There are few vacancies on the roster; four of the team’s seven draft picks from last year currently are on other NFL rosters. Only defensive end Marcus Davenport (first round), receiver Tre’Quan Smith (third) and center/guard Will Clapp (seventh) remain with New Orleans.
“When you have a good roster and you’ve had success, it is harder for young players to make your team and yet, there were some players that we really liked a year ago,” Loomis said. “And we were hoping to get them to the practice squad and then have them become contributing members to our team and somebody else claimed them. That’s just the nature of the system.”
If there are areas that the Saints seek to address in the draft and rookie free agent class that they are unable to address, there remains the option of dipping back into free agency.
“There’s still some players out there that can help us, and we’re going to continue to look at that,” Loomis said. “There’ll be some guys, typically after the draft, there’s a few guys that become available. We’re going to look at that all the way up and through the season.”
THE SCHEDULE: In the team’s first public comments since the NFL schedule was released last week, Loomis said he had no issues with the schedule, which will feature four playoff teams, including three division winners from 2018 – the Texans, Rams and Cowboys – in the first four games.
“I kind of like the schedule, to be honest with you,” he said. “Our opponents are predetermined, so it’s just a matter of when we play them. We’ve got our bye right in the middle of the season; I like that. Those first four weeks are tough opponents, but we’re going to have to play them anyway during the course of the year.
“It’s not like you can avoid playing teams that you perceive as being pretty good. I think in the first half, we’re playing five playoff teams from a year ago. That’s just the way it goes. We’re looking forward to it. We’re looking forward to playing the guys on the schedule that we have. I think we like our schedule.”
BETTER TO RECEIVE: Loomis didn’t rule out looking for a receiver in the draft, but said that the Saints have a strong group and are looking for improvement from it.
“We’ve got a good combination of veteran guys – Mike Thomas, who I consider a veteran now, who’s one of the better receivers in our league, and Ted Ginn,” he said. “And we’ve got some young guys that we like their development – Tre’Quan, and Keith Kirkwood, and Austin Carr. But we’re always looking to improve, always looking to get better. And we’ll see what happens over the course of this week and the coming weeks.”
POSITIONS OF POWER: The Saints’ GM noted several positions of strength in the draft this week. “I think there’s some pass rushers in this draft, probably more than what we ordinarily experience. I think the tight end group is pretty deep. Quarterbacks, I think, is a deep group. But there’s other positions – you can find wide receivers, I think, in this class as well.”