General manager Mickey Loomis downplayed the notion that everyone on the New Orleans Saints' roster was "for sale" this offseason -- and specifically shot down the notion that they had considered trading quarterback Drew Brees. But clearly the Saints were willing to make some bold trades, including the one that sent tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks.
While speaking with a group of reporters during the NFL owners meetings on Monday, Loomis didn't get into too many specifics on how the Graham trade with Seattle developed, but he did explain the reasoning behind the deal.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider had told Sports Illustrated's Peter King that Loomis had first suggested the names of a couple of Saints receivers. But Schneider asked if anything was off limits, and Loomis said no, so Schneider asked about Graham.
“I think that evolved. That's the best way to describe it is that evolved,” Loomis said of the trade that wound up sending Graham and a fourth-round pick to Seattle in exchange for center Max Unger and a the 31st pick in the draft.
Loomis said the Saints felt like they could afford to trade offense to acquire resources that may help on defense.
“You know, we're trying to do some things to help our overall team. And we've been fortunate to have a really good offense for the entire time that Sean Payton's been our head coach,” Loomis said. “I think we've finished first in the NFL five of the nine years, and the top five every year that he's been our head coach. And the one year he was suspended, we still managed to finish sixth in the NFL.
“So we've been able to generate offense throughout that period. And yet our defense has been up and down. So when you look at your team, you're trying to assess the assets that you have and, ‘How can we help ourselves in areas of weakness?' And sometimes that requires you to take a strength of your team and turn it into something else. And the trade just evolved that way.”
Loomis said the reasoning was similar when the Saints traded receiver Kenny Stills to the Miami Dolphins for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round draft pick. Loomis said Stills is a good player, but since he was a fifth-round pick in 2013, Loomis said the team looked at it like turning a fifth-rounder into a third-rounder and the opportunity to acquire another player.
When asked if young tight end Josh Hill's potential was one of the reasons the Saints felt comfortable trading Graham, Loomis said there's not any one player whom the Saints expect to replace Graham's production.
"Jimmy's a special player," Loomis said. "But we've got some guys we've got confidence in, in (tight end Benjamin Watson) and Josh. And there will be other guys on offense that help pick up the production that he's had for us. You know, (running back) Mark Ingram can do more. And (running back) C.J. Spiller. And (receiver) Brandin Cooks, we have high hopes for and we've seen some good things from. So it's not just any one person, necessarily, replacing his production. It's a number of guys on our team."
As for how he feels about the state of the Saints after all the moves that have been made, Loomis said, “Yes, but the proof will be in the season and how it impacts our team.”
“I think every team would say they're pleased with the things that they've done in an offseason, and we're no different,” Loomis said. “And, look, we've still got a long ways to go here. There's other players available, we've got an important draft for us coming up. We've got five picks in the first three rounds, and we have to take advantage of that.”