As usual, the New Orleans Saints are taking a pass on formal media interviews at the scouting combine in Indianapolis this week. But general manager Mickey Loomis did chat with NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune on Wednesday.
Loomis didn’t break much new ground, but he did touch on a variety of the team’s most pressing issues as they head toward the start of the new league year and free-agent signing period on March 10.
Loomis reiterated that the Saints have a plan for trimming the estimated $25 million in salary-cap space that will be required over the next three weeks. Although Loomis didn’t specify that plan, a huge part will include converting roster bonuses into signing bonuses with players like Junior Galette, Jairus Byrd, Jimmy Graham and Curtis Lofton. That simple tweak could save about $20 million right away, shifting those cap costs into future years.
“I wouldn't call it easy, yet we know what our plan is," Loomis told The Times-Picayune. "And we've known what it's going to be for some quite time -- in terms of just getting under the cap."
Not surprisingly, Loomis didn’t hint at any names of veteran players who might get released as part of the cap-cutting process. However, I found one of his comments particularly interesting.
Although Loomis and coach Sean Payton had previously stressed the need to make changes and look at everything with a critical eye following last year’s disappointing 7-9 season, Loomis said it’s important they don’t go overboard based on emotion.
"Every year we've got to look at our team with a critical eye and try not to be swayed by the emotional investment we have in any given team," Loomis said. "That's true whether you're 11-5 or 7-9. Obviously we've got a different feeling after 7-9 and not living up to expectations that I think we all had coming into last season.
"But we have to be careful about not letting those those highs and lows -- and obviously last season was a bit of a low -- interfere with what our mind tells us we need to do."
Loomis suggested that the Saints are interested in re-signing free agent running back Mark Ingram, who is by far the most prominent of the Saints’ unsigned free agents. But he also suggested it might be tough for both sides to agree on Ingram’s market value before other teams are allowed in on the bidding.
"In free agency, everyone wants to see what the market is," Loomis said. "The question is, can that get done prior to March 10? Can both sides get a good feel for that beforehand and do a deal, or do we need to wait and see where all the offers are and respond accordingly?"
Loomis also confirmed, as previously hinted, that the Saints won’t hire any one person in the specific role of player personnel director to replace Ryan Pace. Instead, newly-hired Jeff Ireland will oversee the college scouting department, Terry Fontenot will oversee the pro scouting department, and both will assist in other areas as needed in an overall collaborative process.