Payton explains thinking on Sproles trade

Sean Payton said the decisions to trade running back Darren Sproles and re-sign running back Pierre Thomas should not be viewed as signs that the New Orleans Saints plan to become more run-oriented.

“No, I wouldn’t say that,” Payton said while addressing the media Wednesday morning at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Fla.

Payton said it had more to do with the Saints’ stockpile of youth at the position with young backups Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet.

“Really it came down to a vision as to where we were at, and us feeling like we were younger at some positions,” Payton said, adding that, “Signing Pierre was important. We didn’t think we were gonna be able to handle all the running backs, both Pierre and Darren, and they’re uniquely different.”

Payton still spoke highly of Sproles, though.

“He is someone we’ve graded high,” Payton said. “No. 1, he’s very intelligent. You know, I can’t think of many, if any, times where he does something on the field that you’re not expecting him to do, and that’s a good trait. He’s very competitive, he’s a great teammate. ...

“And then the discussion of a trade came up, and there was more than two teams interested. And all of a sudden what you were hoping for was a seven becomes a six, and then all of sudden you’re discussing a fifth-round pick. And in this year’s draft, that’s pretty considerable. And I think he’s going to a good place. ... But he’s a special guy.”

As for replacing Sproles in the Saints’ offense, Payton said third-year pro Cadet is certainly in line for more opportunities, and could be used in some of the same ways that Sproles was used.

But Payton stressed that no one player will specifically “replace” a unique playmaker like Sproles.

"Over the years, offensively we've had a number of key contributors to what's been a pretty good offense. There's been times where we've done it without Marques Colston. There was an offense prior to Jimmy Graham, prior to Darren Sproles. And one of the key components is an overall understanding philosophically of where guys need to be,” Payton said. “I don't think you ever replace a skill set like Darren's. It's unique, and it's different really than our league has seen in a while with a player of his stature. But with regards to his touches, with regards to opportunities, Travaris is a guy that has played and is now going into his third year. ...

"(Cadet has) got very good ball skills. He's a guy that can run the routes in that tree, when you talk about a choice route, you talk about an option. He can play from in the backfield, but he can play from extend positions. That doesn't mean necessarily he's a wide receiver. It just means he's a running back in space.”

Payton said Cadet will remain in the mix for the Saints’ lead kickoff returner job. But he said the punt returner job (which used to be manned by Sproles and receiver Lance Moore) remains open.

“We’ll have to see how that competition plays out,” Payton said. “It’s something we’ll pay close attention to.”