While General Manager Mickey Loomis says he feels good about the Saints’ offseason moves, he notes that it will be a long time before their work can be evaluated
Anyone who keeps track of happenings that concern the New Orleans Saints can’t spend much time on the Internet without seeing someone call General Manager Mickey Loomis a “genius.”
It doesn’t seem he gets too caught up with that kind of talk, however.
Though Loomis concedes the Saints have so far mostly fulfilled an offseason plan they believe is solid, he knows no NFL team has ever won a Super Bowl in the spring. It’ll be quite some time before the Saints learn whether the moves their front office has made actually bear out the desired effects, he said.
“Grading (the offseason at this point), first of all, is an exercise in futility as far as I’m concerned,” Loomis told reporters gathered at LSU’s pro day Wednesday. “You don’t know the results until after the season is over. We’ve got a long time before we can evaluate the things we have done.”
While there’s no arguing with Loomis, he’ll have difficulty tempering the excitement of Saints fans after what’s been an offseason jam-packed with arrivals, departures and news about whom the team visited with ahead of the draft.
The Saints committed to both strengthening a secondary that was No. 2 against the pass in 2013 as well as preserving its depth. Notably, after acquiring safety Jairus Byrd on the first day of free agency, the Saints also signed cornerback Champ Bailey and retained safety Rafael Bush, who accepted a restricted free-agent offer by Atlanta that New Orleans matched.
Byrd’s 22 career interceptions are the most among players at his position since entering the NFL in 2009. Bailey, who will be 36 in June, is a 12-time Pro Bowler who might challenge to start opposite star cornerback Keenan Lewis and will be counted on to mentor younger teammates. And Bush is penciled in as the No 3 safety on a defense that’s shown a preference for three-safety sets.
But those aren’t the only decisions that have earned Loomis and his staff rave reviews. Among others, they re-signed right tackle Zach Strief, a locker room leader who hit free agency after being the Saints’ best offensive lineman in 2013. They re-upped linebackers Parys Haralson and Ramon Humber, who man valuable roles at affordable rates for a team that won 12 of 18 games last year, reached the divisional playoffs and was about $3.6 million under the salary cap Monday afternoon.
Furthermore, instead of simply releasing him, the Saints traded the relatively pricey Darren Sproles to Philadelphia in exchange for a fifth-round pick. That’s a selection the Saints have done well with in the past: They grabbed players the caliber of punter Thomas Morstead and receiver Kenny Stills in the fifth round of the 2009 and 2013 drafts.
“I feel like we’ve executed our plan well,” Loomis said. “Whether that’s a good plan or not remains to be seen, but we feel like it is.”
Fewer than four weeks away from the draft, the Saints are striving for a long-term deal with All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, who is under a one-year franchise tag. The team has said it’s prepared for negotiations on that contract to last until July.
Additionally, the Saints have until May 3 to decide whether to extend the contracts of Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan and running back Mark Ingram, first-round picks in 2011, through 2015. ESPN on Monday reported that Jordan’s extension should cost $6.96 million for 2015, and Ingram’s $5.21 million.
It’s likely the Saints will extend Jordan’s contract. It may not be as likely for them to do the same with Ingram at that price, though it’s possible they’d be interested in extending his contract for cheaper.
Meanwhile, the Saints have visited with a number of college prospects who could be available to them in the upcoming draft.
Via media reports, league sources and in some cases the player’s own admissions in interviews or on social media, NFL hopefuls the Saints have either had in for visits or were planning to meet with include Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert (first-round projection), Southern California receiver Marqise Lee (first round), Louisville safety Calvin Pryor (first round), Wyoming wideout Robert Herron (third to fourth round) and Oklahoma defensive back Aaron Colvin (late rounds).
There’s also Central Arkansas tight end Chase Dixon (undrafted), Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (second round), Southern California center Marcus Martin (second to third round), Florida State center Bryan Stork (fourth round) and Sam Houston State running back Timothy Flanders (undrafted).
They had dinner plans with Odell Beckham Jr. (first round) and Jarvis Landry (second to third round), both receivers from LSU. On Friday, Tulane held its pro day at the Saints’ training facilities in Metairie. Prospects there included Green Wave kicker Cairo Santos and wide receiver Ryan Grant, who could be there for NFL teams in the latter portions of the draft.
The Saints on Monday had only one receiver (Marques Colston) who had played more than one NFL season. Their only center as of Monday was Tim Lelito, who started two games at right guard as a rookie in 2013.
Unsurprisingly, Loomis has been tight-lipped about which players the Saints most covet as the May 8-10 draft nears. But he’s been steadfast about the team’s aims.
“Our goal every year is to get to the draft and select the best player, the best fit for our team, regardless of position,” Loomis said. “We’re going to draft the best player available to us that fits for our club.”