Following a heartbreaking and, more importantly, controversial loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the 2019 NFC Championship Game, the New Orleans Saints have their sights set on next year, looking to bounce back from what could have been a Super Bowl-winning season.
To make the most of their offseason, the Saints will have to put blown calls behind them and focus on taking advantage of the market. However, the team’s draft capital is not much to work with. New Orleans owns just one draft pick in the first four rounds of the upcoming NFL Draft following the mid-season acquisitions of some big-name players like Eli Apple and Teddy Bridgewater. That being said, trading seems like the logical way to go in order for the Saints to fill the gaps and acquire both draft picks and more players. Here are a few scenarios.
A.J. Klein to the Oakland Raiders
Since trading away the phenomenal Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears, the Raiders have struggled at the linebacker position, allowing the most yards per play by their opponents with an average of 6.3. For the Saints, A.J. Klein has proven himself as an underrated defender, leading the team in tackles for loss or no gain with 16. Additionally, New Orleans’ roster boasts linebackers Demario Davis and Alex Anzalone, giving them some wiggle room with this position.
Should the Saints trade Klein to Oakland, could acquire a potential 4th round draft pick and save $4 million by opting out of his contract. The Raiders have quite a bit of high draft picks this year thanks to the trading of Mack and wide receiver Amari Cooper, so giving up a 4th round pick for a player that fills a positional gap they so desperately need filled makes sense.
Andrus Peat to the Houston Texans
Peat has showcased his offensive lineman abilities in New Orleans since being drafted in 2015, though this past season was a slight dip in performance following a string of injuries. He was far from the strongest lineman this year, though still played at around a league-average level. The Texans are in desperate need of a competent lineman, as they allowed a whopping 65 sacks this past year on their young franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. Protecting him is currently their biggest priority.
Sending Peat to Houston (along with a late round pick of their own) could potentially give the Saints a 3rd round draft pick. While linemen Cameron Tom, Jermon Bushrod, and Will Clapp stepped up in Peat’s absence during his stint of injuries, they don’t seem like long-term replacements just yet. If New Orleans does trade Peat for an additional draft pick, they will still need to address this position in free agency, or the draft itself.
2nd and 6th Round Picks for George Kittle
On the opposite side of the spectrum, New Orleans could analyze this year’s draft class and realize that no player worthwhile will be available with their 62nd overall pick, and for that reason, offer the pick for an already-developed NFL starter. The tight end position is not the strongest on the Saints’ roster, so taking a chance on a rookie in the 2nd round is a risk, especially considering the fact that they’ll need to develop which is not in the team’s best interest behind the 40 year old Drew Brees. George Kittle, who had a remarkable season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2018, is a proven tight end with only two years left on his rookie contract.
Kittle ranked third in receptions among tight ends in the league with 88, 20 of those being 20 yards or more, and racked up an impressive 1,377 yards receiving. While the 49ers will not give him up so easily, it’s worth a shot. Giving San Francisco additional draft picks could allow them to build more strongly around a promising young quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, drafting younger stars or moving up and down the board as they please with even more pick trading. Again, this would be a long shot, but one that could be mutually beneficial if the 49ers’ front office knows how to draft well.