New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis
Tuesday, April 27, 2016
"I would like to first acknowledge the hard work of Jeff Ireland and his staff, Terry Fontenot and his staff and that of our coaches and assistant coaches. These guys put in a lot of hours. They travel a lot of miles, all for the product that we end up with this weekend. They've done a great job and don't get enough credit for the work that they do. The first thing I'd like to say at the beginning is that we've a tough few weeks here with the loss of a couple of people and I know that if we can draft players that have the impact that Will Smith and Hokie Gajan have had on this organization and this community than we've had a good weekend. So with that I'll get to the questions you guys are dying to ask. Is it Mo' Tom or Tom's ready?"
Are you going to make a pick?
"I'm hoping for a photo finish in either order."
When your franchise has gone through such a difficult few weeks as you have said, how do you balance allowing people to grieve and grieving yourself while preparing for the biggest day of the year?
"That's a good question. I don't know that there's any formula for that. Obviously there are a lot of people on our staff that did know those players for a long time and some that didn't or didn't know them as well. So, our guys kept grinding away, yet we were able to take some time and grieve Will (Smith) and Hokie (Gajan). We talked about them in our meetings and before our meetings for a few days and I think that was good for all of us."
There was a report yesterday that you guys had previously had discussions to trade up to the top of the draft. Did you guys talk at all about trading up to number one?
"No. There were absolutely no conversations. I didn't have any conversations with anybody at the top of the draft."
Were there talks to trade up?
"No. There were not any discussions about moving up with any team."
Could you talk about your club's pursuit of Josh Norman? He talked today about the dealings he had with the Saints.
"Yes, they were positive. Obviously we were in the mix, but he went a different route. That is all I can say about it. He is with the Washington Redskins now. That is all I can say. We were in the mix. I think we made a strong offer."
Were you in the mix early on or did you try to come in late?
"I do not know how you can come in late, because the time between them (the Panthers) pulling the franchise tag and him signing (with Washington) was pretty short in that scenario. We were in the mix. That's all I can say."
Would that have required some contract restructurings and renegotiations, including with Drew Brees?
"It would have required some maneuvering, yes."
Is there anything you can say about the state of the contract talks with Drew Brees?
Was going after Josh Norman a no-brainer with that kind of talent going on the market?
"I don't think it's a no-brainer because you have to balance that with what's on your roster, with the salary cap room available, with the resources you have available. So, it's never a no-brainer for a contract of that magnitude. But obviously we thought he was a good player and would impact our team. That was the thought."
Considering you were talking to him, do you have concerns about your cornerback group and just how many are coming off injuries? It seems like there's a lot of uncertainty.
"I think we're always trying to add good players. We like the guys we have. We have some young guys back there. We have Keenan (Lewis) coming off the injury, but he's been a good player for us in the past and we expect a lot of things from him. Obviously we are real surprised by Delvin (Breaux) and the performance he had, so we are looking for him to build on that and we have some young guys as I said. I don't think we view that as a critical need and yet there's an opportunity to get a really good player, so we took a shot."
Why has there been so much interest in some of the top quarterbacks in this draft such as Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch?
"I think we look into the quarterbacks every year. We have for the last few years. We need to have an eye towards the future, but we're happy with our quarterback situation as well, so I think that's just part of the process every year. We maybe had a few questions that we needed answered that maybe in the past we haven't had to have answered. I don't see it as being dramatically different."
Going with what you know now, is there one thing that you would have done differently in the 2015 NFL Draft?
"I'd have to sit around and think about that for a while. I'd have to go back. There have been a lot of decisions and a lot of actions we've taken since then, so I'd have to go back and think about every one of those. I'm sure there are a few."
In both working with personnel but also on the financial side, can you talk a little bit about the working relationship with Khai Harley in coming up with a scheme to get money to go after free agents when it's been pretty tight the last couple of years and then the pursuit of Josh Norman?
"I think you guys probably make a bigger deal of where we are at in a given point in time than we do. There's a lot of planning that goes into that, a lot of thought about where we are at today, tomorrow, a year from now, three years from now and we talk about that all the time. Khai who you mentioned is a really smart guy who knows all the cap rules inside and out. When we sign contracts, we are aware of how this impacts us. What can we do with these deals moving forward. We have a way of looking at them that incorporates our cap planning. I think every team does that. There's no secret sauce here. It's not unusual, but we have some smart people in the building that know how to work a deal."
Was the decision to waive Vinnie Sunseri injury-related or did you guys just move on?
"I think we were just looking at our roster and looking at where we're at, we just decided to make a move there and he didn't figure in our plans going forward."
What position jumps out at you in this draft class?
"That's a good question. Right now we have more defensive players on our board than offensive and yet, the strength of the draft is going to be determined two or three years from now when we look back as opposed to today just looking at the numbers that are on the board. Look, it's going to be a different viewpoint for every team, depending on who we draft and how they turn out, so I guess the answer to your question is that we probably have a few more, not a lot of defensive players on our board than we do offensive players."
With Los Angeles and Philadelphia trading to the top of the draft do you think because of the new CBA not giving as much guaranteed money to high first round draft picks that it encourages some of the deals at the top of the draft such as this year?
"I think it's quarterback-driven. Certainly a lot of that is how the rookie contracts work now as opposed to the way they did five years ago and during that period you were talking about, especially the top ten. But, there's a lot of talk every year. There are a lot of deals pitched and a lot that get close but not as many that get consummated. I think it will be the same thing. I don't expect this flurry of activity that would be unusual and yet I know there will be a lot of talk."
Do you feel this year where you're drafting that need and player grade match up better than last year because Andrus Peat was not an obvious, immediate need? Do you think you guys are in a better spot considering there are a lot of defensive players and a lot of depth there?
"I don't know yet, because it kind of depends on what happens right in front of us, those picks right in front of us. I do think we're in a similar position this year where we have some wants and desires but I think we also have the flexibility to take someone who is the best graded player if that's the spot that we end up in."
Is it harder to get a read on other teams in this draft as it seems like there are a lot of players in that second tier that goes pretty long?
"I think that depends on what you are talking about. Are you talking about the teams right in front of us in the first round or are you talking later. I think it's always difficult once you get past the first 15 or 16 picks. There is always a surprise or two from us and then when you get to the middle of the second round, it looks a little different. I don't know that it's any more difficult than it is. It's always difficult to get a real good beat on what's going to happen once you get past the first 15 or 16 picks."
Since you have been doing this for so long people probably look at trends and probabilities. Since you have traded up so much, but have not traded back in the first round. Is that the time or place or is that philosophically you believe in?
"It's not about not believing in trading back. I think that we've tried. There are times we have tried to do that. I do think though that if you look at the history of trades there's more success trading up than trading back. I'm not opposed to it. We're not opposed to it. It just hasn't worked out."
Are Robert Nkemdiche and Noah Spence still on your board?
"I cannot speak to what other teams have done. We looked into the background, we looked into the incidents. I'd rather not say if they are on our board or not. But, obviously we had both of those guys in for visits and they had good visits with us."
Is guard one of the positions you consider a must or would you be surprised if you went the entire draft without getting one?
"I don't want to get into that, what our must needs and must wants are. I think you guys do a good job of that and are pretty good at it, but I'd rather not say. You guys know it's my goal here to not give you any information. I say it to you every year and make it clear that's still the case."
Did what you did in free agency knock off some of those musts?
In this year's draft, there seems to be a lot of tackles in college kicked into guard in the pros. This year there seems to be an even larger number of tackles you could kick inside to guard. Not having Jahri Evans here, is that a position you have to look at fairly early?
"We look at all those positions. What you're saying is true yet I don't think that's any different than any year. We are always looking at players and what they played in college and if there is a better fit for them at another position and what's that fit for us and what we're looking for. I think each team has a common set of traits and skillset you are looking for, yet there are nuances with every team and every coach in what they're looking for at a specific position, so the answer to your question is yes we do look at position flexibility as well as is this particular player better suited in our game and with our team playing a different position?"
Talking about culture the last few years. If players are close in ratings, how much does character play a role in the decision-making process?
"It's extremely important, extremely important. It's one of the first things we look at."
Can you discuss the vertical and horizontal element to your cloud?
"When we talk about a cloud, what we are talking about at a pick in a particular round, who are the players that we think would be available that might be available and we group them together and put them in order so we're not debating who we're taking if there's three or four guys available to us at a particular pick, so the cloud is who are those guys in the first round, second round and third round that we think might be available to us. We put them up in this grouping and then we debate about if all these guys are available what's the order we're taking them in?"
Do you guys do that for every round of the draft and update it as it goes?
"We do. We will update it each night. We'll do it tomorrow night after the first round. We've done it but we'll do it again."
What encouraged you to activate the fifth-year option on Kenny Vaccaro since once you have used it and once you haven't in similar circumstance?
"He's a good player and we felt like the value's appropriate."
When you look at individual positions, in addition to you, coach Payton and the scouts, how involved are position coaches in the process?
"I believe in having everyone involved, (including) our coaches, our scouts, our pro scouts. We receive a lot of opinions. We encourage dissent. We encourage debate. I think that's the best system for us. We have coaches go to pro days. They spend a lot of time interviewing the players available in a particular draft class. I believe in heavy involvement. They have an influence."
Do you think there are a couple of players in the 2015 draft that are ready to flourish?
"I think a year's a little early. I think we have to give it a little time. I'm encourage by a number of these guys. We'll see. We'll see how they do in their sophomore year and next year as well and I think we'll be able to look back and make an evaluation of the class."
Do you look at players that fit your scheme or do you look at players that are maybe great athletes and say you will try to make them fit? What is your philosophy?
"I think it's a combination. We look at the makeup, we look at the skillset, the traits that they have, project that into our defense or offense. Do they have a particular outstanding skill that we can take advantage of, so it's a combination of all those things. I think our coaches and scouts do a good job of that."
Has your role in the draft changed at all since Jeff Ireland came in?
When you look at Drew Brees' contractual situation with no hard deadline, if the season starts, could tabling it until after the season distract him?
"Drew's been through all this. He's been through everything I think you can be through as a player. I don't see him being distracted by anything. I'm for getting a deal whenever you can get a deal, period and I don't think that Drew's the type of person or player…He can compartmentalize and focus so well, we've all seen that, that it wouldn't be a distraction for him either way. I don't want to speak for him. That's a question for him more than me. I don't have any qualms about doing a deal whenever you can get something done for him that's good for the franchise."
How much are smokescreens reality and how much of it is created by outside sources?
"It is a good question and I do not know the answer. I only know what we do. We do not put out a lot. We're not a smokescreen team. We're more a silent team. I prefer just being silent and let people think what they want to think and most of the time they're wrong."