Loomis on Saints' trade philosophy

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints' NFL draft strategy over the past seven years has definitely been quality over quantity.

In each of those drafts, they've sacrificed at least one pick to either move up for a player or acquire a veteran in free agency. Dating back to the start of general manager Mickey Loomis' tenure in 2002, the Saints have traded up four times in Round 1.

And once again, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Saints move up this year -- as I projected in our ESPN NFL Nation mock draft, where I had them trading up to snag receiver Brandin Cooks.

There are two reasons why the Saints haven't been hung up on stockpiling draft picks over the years, as Loomis explained during his pre-draft press conference Wednesday.

For one, it has always been about a specific player that the Saints felt was worth the cost.

For another, the Saints have confidence in their ability to add quality undrafted free agents -- an area where they've thrived in recent years.

"I wouldn't say that we don't need 'em," Loomis said of the picks that have been traded away. "It's just that we've had opportunities to trade later-round picks for players that can have more of an immediate and short-term impact, and we've done that.

"We know there's a cost to that, obviously, in terms of having a younger player that can come in and be a special teams guy for you for a few years. But I think part of our confidence in trading away some of those later picks is the success that we've had in the college free agent pool. So in a lot of ways, I look at those guys as our later-round picks.

"If we can continue to have success doing that, then it gives us a little more freedom to trade away a sixth- and seventh-round pick and either move up or trade for a player."

The Saints have already traded away one pick and acquired one pick in this year's draft. They sent their seventh-rounder to the San Francisco 49ers last summer for linebacker Parys Haralson. And they acquired a fifth-rounder from the Philadelphia Eagles in March for running back Darren Sproles.

It's always possible the Saints could move down in the draft, too. They've done that plenty of times, as well, during Loomis' tenure as general manager -- just never in the first round.

Loomis and the Saints are always on the lookout for deals that make the most sense based on how their draft board is shaping up. If there's one guy that stands out above the rest, they go and get him. If they've got a cluster of guys ranked similarly, they're more willing to move down.

Typically, those decisions won't happen until teams get on the clock, though.

Loomis said teams will always have pre-draft conversations about the possibility of moving up or down. But they need to remain flexible as the draft plays out.

"We have a pretty good idea of who are the first 12 or 15 guys that are going to come off the board. We have no idea what order, obviously, and there's always a surprise or two. But we have a pretty good idea of the first half, I would call it," Loomis said. "Then, who knows? That part is pretty difficult. We have to be prepared for any and all scenarios."