Saints GM Mickey Loomis tight-lipped as draft nears

Associate Press file photo -- New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis speaks at a press conference after returning from his suspension last season. Loomis, addressing reporters Tuesday, tried to say as little as possible about the Saints' plans for the NFL draft this week.
Associate Press file photo -- New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis speaks at a press conference after returning from his suspension last season. Loomis, addressing reporters Tuesday, tried to say as little as possible about the Saints' plans for the NFL draft this week.

METAIRIE — With just more than 48 hours until the NFL draft, New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis walked through a set of double doors at the team’s training facility Tuesday and smiled at reporters.

It wasn’t the first time Loomis has come to his pre-draft news conference with the goal of being as vague as possible, in order to not give even a hint of the team’s strategy for the three-day draft that begins Thursday night.

“Well,” he said, “I guess this is the deal where you ask me questions and I do the best I can not to answer them. So we’re open for business.”

Loomis touched on a number of topics during the 23-minute session, but he stuck to his plan — as usual — of not providing any information other teams could use to their advantage when the Saints make their first pick with the 15th overall selection.

Loomis did say that the Saints, who have single picks in third through sixth rounds as well as the first, would like to have the second-round selection they forfeited as part of the punishment for the bounty scandal. He said 45 or 50 players have been assigned second-round grades.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean, he said, that the Saints have already talked a lot about moving back in the draft and possibly recouping that second-round pick.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve been more active,” Loomis said when asked if they’ve talked to more teams because they don’t have a second-round choice. “We’d like to have one ... but we haven’t been more active because of that.

“Those kinds of deals, where you’re trading back and picking up selections, (are) going to happen on the clock, for the most part. In the next day or two, I’ll talk to probably most of the teams and find out who’s interested in moving.”

Loomis said there’s a point where they would want to move back to, but they won’t go too far because they want to make sure they get one of the top players available — either late in the first round or in the second.

At the same time, the Saints could also make a move up — which is what they’ve been inclined to do since Loomis became general manager in 2002 and especially since coach Sean Payton joined the team four years later.

“We’re willing to go either direction. ... We’ve always been willing to go either direction,” Loomis said. “Particularly in the past four or five years, there’s always been a player that we coveted, either when we were picking or right in front of us that we thought we needed to move up and get.”

Loomis said opportunity is a big part of it.

“If you’re not getting calls to move back — there have been a couple of occasions where there have been a number of players where we thought, ‘Hey we can move back and still get one of our guys,’” he said. “But we didn’t have the opportunity. We’re more than willing to move back if the opportunity presents itself.”

Loomis acknowledged that the team has had discussions with the New York Jets and “several other teams” about a trade for running back Chris Ivory.

Ivory on Friday signed the one-year, $2.023 million tender offer he received as a restricted free agent from the Saints, paving the way for the club to seek a trade for the four-year veteran.

Loomis said no deal is imminent, even though the Jets are reportedly interested in Ivory, who visited the team April 12.

The Jets, however, declined to offer Ivory a contract at the time because they would have had to surrender a second-round draft pick as compensation if the Saints declined to match their offer.

Once Ivory signed his Saints tender, they were able to explore trade options although they’ll likely only get a late-round pick in return — if a deal is made at all.

“Look, that’s clearly a position of strength for us,” Loomis said. “We have had discussions with — the publicized team is the Jets — but we’ve had discussions with several other teams as well.

“There’s no deal imminent, but we have had some discussions about it.”

Partly because of injuries, Ivory, who led the Saints in rushing as an undrafted rookie in 2010, has been stuck in a crowded backfield behind Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles.

Despite Ivory’s salary of just more than $2 million, Loomis said they could keep him if they don’t get a value pick in return even though the Saints have salary-cap issues.

“They are four really good players, but don’t be surprised if all of them end up on our roster come September,” Loomis said of Ingram, Thomas, Sproles and Ivory. “And yet, we have to pay attention to our (cap) issues there.”