For the second time in two days, the New Orleans Saints have traded a defender who was a high draft pick but no longer fit into their plans, on Tuesday sending two-year veteran linebacker Courtney Watson to the Buffalo Bills for tight end Tim Euhus.
At one point regarded as the long-term solution to the Saints' lingering problems at middle linebacker, Watson, a second-round choice in the 2004 draft, became a short-timer in New Orleans with the arrival of a new coaching staff. New Orleans officials last weekend excused Watson from a three-day minicamp, and coach Sean Payton acknowledged the Saints had granted the former Notre Dame star permission to seek potential trade partners.
Watson, 25, was actually traded to the Miami Dolphins last month in a one-for-one swap that sent three-year veteran linebacker Eddie Moore to the Saints. The deal was voided, however, when Moore, also a former second-round choice, failed a physical administered by the Saints' medical staff.
Like Watson, Euhus is a two-year veteran. The former Oregon State standout was chosen by the Bills in the fourth round of the 2004 draft. Euhus, 25, has appeared in 23 games in two seasons with nine starts, and he has 14 receptions for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
Euhus is entering the final season of his three-year rookie contract and is scheduled to earn a base salary of $425,000 in 2006. He would be eligible for restricted free agency next spring unless the Saints sign him to an extension. New Orleans could retain a right of first refusal next spring by making Euhus a restricted free agent qualifying offer.
The situation with Watson is indicative of how a player's status can be affected when there is a coaching change. Under former coach Jim Haslett, dismissed after the 2005 season, Watson was generally regarded as a promising player. But the scheme being installed by new defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs, the Saints contend, is not a good fit for Watson, who started 14 games in two seasons with the team.
Had the Saints not be able to locate a trade partner, Watson likely would have been released, probably before the start of training camp.
The 60th player chosen in the 2004 draft, Watson signed a five-year, $2.98 million contract with the Saints. The deal included a $1.052 million signing bonus. Watson voided the fifth season of the deal and has two years left on the contract, at base salaries of $425,000 for 2006 and $460,000 for 2007.
In 21 appearances, Watson registered 115 tackles, three sacks and three passes defensed. His 2005 season was marred by a DUI arrest in October, and then a sprained knee sidelined him for the final seven games of the year, which ended with him on the injured reserve list.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.