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Q&A: Sean Payton at the NFL Annual Meeting

Quotes from Sean Payton at the NFL Annual Meeting

I know you're trying to rebound from 7-9, but what are you trying to accomplish with these moves?

"I mentioned this the other day, the moves become, or appear, more than normal whenever there is a trade because typically in the offseason there is a trade but not a lot. I think when the season ended, Mickey (Loomis) and I sat down and we looked closely at some 'musts' that we've got to accomplish between now and when the draft ends. You've got to look at every way that you can possibly fill those 'musts' and so you have the draft, obviously, as a starting point but then there is a chance at free agency and we've kind of been selective participants in that over the years, depending on where we see a fit. Lastly, being in trade and sometimes in doing that you look at who are those type of players that are attractive; there aren't a lot of players that get traded. I think, going into the process, skeptical I don't think is the word, but are we going to be able to get value where we consider equal value for a certain player. Clubs are very guarded about, especially a first round pick. With regards to Jimmy (Graham), a pick that's later in the first round, and a player that we identified (Max Unger). There are kind of two checks there – you're getting an interior lineman, which is one of these 'musts' that we're discussing, you're also getting a first round pick that hopefully you can help put towards one of your other needs or 'musts'. Obviously we've got to get better on defense and so there is a give and take there. Obviously there is the challenge of parting with a real good football player like Jimmy (Graham). He's one example, with the interior lineman, both Jahri (Evans) and Ben Grubbs are I wouldn't say similar and yet, probably veteran-type players that both you're going to examine closely and examine and look at the contract numbers and there was some trade talk with both of those players. There was some interest from other teams with respect to a possible trade. So sometimes you're forced to cut a veteran player and then he is able to see what the market is and get a price. With regards to Ben (Grubbs), we were able to make a trade with Kansas City (Chiefs). The last trade was Kenny Stills, who is a young player for us and yet we were able to acquire a player on defense that we feel like we graded as a guy that can really help us and again, acquire another pick. But I think there was this impression that, 'hey, everybody was getting…' and there were probably five or so discussions with regards to other teams with possible trade options and it shifted around with Jimmy (Graham) for about a period of a week. Kenny Stills and the Miami discussions, that was probably the better part of a week, but outside of that, whether it was the Chiefs with regards to Ben (Grubbs) or Buffalo, it was very limited discussions. All with the idea that we were to identify what we need to do in the offseason and can we begin filling these boxes. And I don't only filling them, but filling them with players we want to fill them with."

Some of these moves you left open, some of these holes that you didn't have before – Ben Grubbs and Curtis Lofton.

"Those aren't holes. We're not moving a player if we feel like there's no…we feel like we have a pretty good idea of how everything is lining up. We've got a center we know that starts in this NFL, we've got a guard, (Tim) Lelito will play left guard, Jahri Evans is the right guard. The same way at receiver. So we weren't looking to make a move that created another 'must'."

So, you guys are locked in with Evans?

"Yes, Jahri (Evans) will play for us at right guard and I think that the structure of his contract with regards to this upcoming season, I don't know that that is resolved with how it is going to lay out. Obviously we're up against the cap but Mickey (Loomis) has done a really good job, especially with some of these acquisitions and obviously the draft coming up, you're going to need 'x' amount of dollars for your rookie pool."

Sean, you came in 2006 and had to kind of create the culture. With this offseason season, it is kind of recreating that culture?

"I think it was important for us to look at what Mickey (Loomis) and I looked at during the start of the offseason. Let's not lose track of why we have been successful and what has been good to us. Part of that is putting highly motivated players in that locker room that care about each other. It's something that seems so simple and yet it's not has not been our secret that it has been our formula of just getting the right type of guys that are tough, football players. That certainly will be an emphasis this offseason and going into the draft as well."

What do you do when someone, who is critical, like Kennan Lewis, came out?

"Well, that's part of the deal. That has always existed it has just never been as visible. So, he was up in my office two days later and that all went away."

Is Brandon Browner a guy that kind of has to be used in a specific way with his skillset?

"Yes. I think I see him as (1) our right corner and (2) I see him as a bump-and-run player. So, the closer he can be to the receiver, the better. Keenan, to some degree is a press player, as well. Obviously we've gotten bigger at that position. If you look at our division and you just take a team; Tampa Bay there is size; Atlanta there is size at receiver; Carolina, probably more size at the receiver position in the NFC South than in any other division in football. So you don't want to line up with 5'8 corners and bump-and-run and bumping their knees. So, I think Brandon's (Browner) comfort zone certainly would be playing up close to the line of scrimmage. Each week and you're looking at playing six games really in the division and you know you're going to see big receivers – big talent in receivers."

What about Delvin Breaux? What have you guys liked about him?

"It's kind of an interesting story and a lot of you won't be familiar in it. We signed a corner from the CFL this offseason and of course he's from New Orleans so it's spelled, what B-r-e-a-u-x? He was a high school player, recruited heavily, signed a scholarship with LSU and then sustained an injury his senior year. He actually fractured his neck, went through extensive an rehab, wasn't able to pass a physical, three years at LSU and then eventually can't get a chance to play and finally he is cleared and he plays in a semi-pro league, I think locally. Plays for the arena team, VooDoo, gets picked up by a CFL team, goes up, plays in the CFL for two seasons, so he was down 15 or 16 tryouts. He's done great workouts with us, great size, great hands. Just kind of an unusual journey to how he's gotten to where he is now and is a local player who we signed probably about two months ago, after his workout. I like him – he too is another corner I think can play at the line. Of course, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who we drafted last year, we like this prospect, we knew when we drafted him that he was going to be a developmental player. I'm missing someone now, Brian Dixon, was another corner that played quite a bit last year and actually can run. So we've got, I think a good balance of young players and some veteran experience. Brandon (Browner) is someone that definitely is going to be playing up at the line of scrimmage. He and Keenan (Lewis) both."

Can any of those guys kind of fall into that nickel role or is that something just to kind of look into?

"No, I think, when you studied (Brandon) Browner and New England last year, there are three corners on the field in their traditional nickel. They are just going to their match up so sometimes it might bring them to their matchup and sometimes it might bring them outside, it was just how they were going to deploy. But yes, I think so. I that group, yes."

So did you talk to Drew (Brees), specifically about the Jimmy Graham situation because…

"After, yes."

What's your sense with how he's going to be able to move on? He's a big target and a tough matchup in the red zone. How's he handling it?

"Yes, I think he's handling it fine. I think when you go through our history offensively, and who we've had at tight end, who we've had at receiver; there are one or two constants. But Drew (Brees) is certainly one of the constants. We've had six or seven different tight ends in the nine years that we've played; running backs that play that joker positon for us. Our job is to make sure that we look at this upcoming season and like C.J. Spiller and say here's a target and here's a weapon we can use that is unique and we've got to be able to be flexible enough. No different than when we were able to draft Reggie Bush and expecting that to happen, it changed a little bit – what we were going to be able to do. We'll do the same thing this year. We feel confident in Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill, who a lot of you guys aren't even aware of. So we'll get our production from that position. We'll get it outside and that's the challenge about it every year."

Making it work with (Marques) Colston to get him back in the locker room. How important is that for the continuity?

"He's smart and he's tough and he can play the inside positon as well. With every decision, there has got to be some vision. So, Marques Colston, vision coming up for '15: he's got to play his all three spots. There is toughness about him. There is a size factor that obviously is a bit plus for us. The same thing would apply for a player like Josh Hill. With one of these younger receivers – we have two practice squad receivers that no one would even know right now that we think are going to be involved in this year's plan. So, when you lose a target like Jimmy (Graham), obviously there are some areas to look at but that's happened before. That has happened during the season, with injury. That has happened with other players and the ball gets spread around."

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