Haslett, general manager Mickey Loomis and director of player personnel Rick Mueller will certainly explore all their options between now and draft day, but Haslett said a trade that would vault the Saints into the upper reaches of the first round would be costly in more ways than one.
The Saints would probably have to give up
their two first-round picks (Nos. 17 and 18 overall) and possibly another draft
choice either this year or next to get what would amount to an NBA lottery pick.
"We might move up. But if you move up in the (Nos.) 4, 5, 6, 7 slot,
it's going to cost you," Haslett said. "For the 17th and 18th picks last year,
it cost you $11 million to sign both of them. But it will cost you $15 million
or $20 million to sign one of those guys (in the top seven).
the benefit is to stay where we're at," he said. "You might get a better player
(in the top seven), but you're paying twice as much and I'm getting an extra
player. So I don't know if you take that deal."
Stockpiling draft picks
has been Haslett's method of operation the last couple of years. Last spring,
the Saints had an extra first-round pick (25th overall) from the trade that sent
Ricky Williams to the Dolphins.
They used their own first-round pick
(No. 13) for wide receiver Donté Stallworth and then nabbed defensive end
Charles Grant with the selection they got from the Dolphins. Both became
starters, along with second-round pick LeCharles Bentley, even though Stallworth
struggled with injuries for part of the season.
The Saints would like to
add more young talent with the five picks they have in the first three rounds.
In addition to back-to-back picks in the first round (Nos. 17 and 18), they have
their own second-round choice and two third rounders this year.
second of the two first-round selections will complete the Williams trade, while
the extra third-round pick came from the Chiefs for tackle William Roaf.
At this point, Haslett said his ideal draft would net the Saints "a
really good corner" as well as a tight end, safety and maybe another cornerback
later in the draft. The Saints have no picks in the fourth or sixth rounds, but
they have one selection in the fifth round and two in the seventh.
--The Saints picked up
some depth on the offensive line when they re-signed veteran tackle Scott
Sanderson to a one-year contract. Sanderson is expected to the top backup for
free-agent acquisition Wayne Gandy at left tackle and Spencer Folau or Victor
Riley on the right side.
If center Jerry Fontenot doesn't re-sign with
the Saints, left guard Kendyl Jacox is likely to move to center with Folau
switching to left guard from his starting right tackle spot. That would move
Riley, who has been impressive after reporting to offseason conditioning drills
at 328 pounds, into Folau's spot at right tackle. LeCharles Bentley will likely
remain at right guard.
--Two of the Saints' unrestricted free agents
signed with other teams last week as middle linebacker Charlie Clemons went to
the Texans and backup tight end Lamont Hall joined the Falcons. Meanwhile,
strong safety Sammy Knight plans to visit the Steelers next week.
Clemons received a four-year, $4.67 million contract from the Texans.
The deal includes a $1.3 million signing bonus for Clemons, who is expected to
play outside linebacker for the Texans.
Clemons voided the final year of
his four-year contract with the Saints by meeting certain playing time
thresholds during the past two seasons. A two-year starter for the Saints,
Clemons had 112 tackles last season after piling up career-high numbers in
tackles (123) and sacks (13.5) in 2001.
Hall, who was primarily a
blocking specialist with the Saints the last three seasons, signed a one-year
deal with the Falcons that is believed to be for the league minimum of $530,000.
Hall caught nine passes for 54 yards and one TD in 48 games with the Saints.
--With a possible deal for Patriots safety Tebucky Jones on hold, the
Saints continue to search for a safety in the free-agent market. Ex-Raiders
safety Anthony Dorsett visited the Saints late last week, while Dolphins safety
Arturo Freeman, a restricted free agent, is expected in this week.
trade of Kyle Turley to the Rams not only landed the Saints a second-round draft
pick in 2004, but it also freed up $3.4 million in salary cap room. That, along
with the Sanderson signing, leaves the team about $12 million under the $75
million salary cap.
--With the signing of Sanderson, the Saints have now
re-signed three of their own unrestricted free agents. Kicker John Carney and
special teams ace Fred McAfee signed earlier. The team has also offered
contracts to two other UFAs -- Fontenot and defensive end Willie Whitehead.
--Saints special teams coach Al Everest was recently voted by his peers
as the NFL Special Teams Coach of the Year. The award, which is sponsored
annually by Professional Kicking Services, is decided in a ballot of the
league's special teams coaches.
Everest received the award at a ceremony
on March 25, in Reno, Nev.
Last season, Everest coached two Pro Bowl
picks in return man Michael Lewis and cover ace Fred McAfee. Kicker John Carney
was a first alternate after breaking the team's scoring record with 130 points
-- making 31 of 35 field-goal attempts.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We fixed the
offense last year. We can score some points. We're good on special teams. We're
just not very good on defense. We've got to somehow fix the defense, and get
some more speed and better players over there." -- Saints coach Jim Haslett on
the team's focus during the offseason.
NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: CB, S, TE.
CB -- You can never
have too many cornerbacks and the Saints don't have anywhere near enough help at
this critical position. The Saints have Dale Carter, Fred Thomas and Ashley
Ambrose, who was signed early in free agency, but they lost UFA Ken Irvin, whom
they wanted back, to the Vikings last month and need more quality depth.
S -- The Saints are in the market for safeties that can cover a lot of
ground. More speed on defense was a major need last season and Sammy Knight just
didn't give it to them. Second-year pro Mel Mitchell will get a chance to be a
starter, but they need an experienced veteran to go with him.
TE -- Free
agent David Sloan was brought in last season, but was inconsistent as a pass
catcher. In all fairness, however, he struggled during training camp and
throughout the season with a sore knee. Still, upgrading this position is a
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LB Bryan Cox (he's a good leader, but that's
hard to do from sideline; likely to be gone); C Jerry Fontenot (Saints would
like to see him come back and continue anchoring the offensive line and Fontenot
is comfortable with the club); S Sammy Knight (time in New Orleans is done;
Saints feel he lacks range to play in space); G/C Bubba Miller (spent year on
and off roster as he rehabbed a foot injury; shouldn't draw a lot of interest
and Saints are expected to bring him back); WR Jake Reed (slumped down stretch;
Saints may take a chance with brother Dale Carter on his own); DE Willie
Whitehead (will get most outside interest among Saints' free agents they want
back; they see him as a reliable, if unspectacular, performer).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CB Michael Hawthorne (tendered at $605,000 with
6th-round pick as compensation; Saints will look at him as a safety, but there
are doubts about whether he can make the transition); RB Curtis Keaton (tendered
at $605,000 with 4th-round pick as compensation; Saints think he can help as
backup given a full offseason to learn offense); FB Terrelle Smith (tendered at
$605,000 with 4th-round pick as compensation; could draw interest from other
teams, he can be a devastating blocker but not much else).
RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: S Steve Gleason (tendered at $450,000); LB Roger Knight
(tendered at $300,000); KR/WR Michael Lewis (tendered at $375,000); TE Boo
Williams (tendered at $375,000).
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: PK John Carney (UFA;
$4.42M/5 yrs, $500,000 SB/$50,00 RB; 2003 cap: $905,000); LB Curtis Holden
(ERFA; $300,000/1 yr); RB Fred McAfee (UFA; terms unknown); OT Scott Sanderson
(UFA; terms unknown).
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: CB Ashley Ambrose (FA Falcons;
$7M/4 yrs, $1.5M SB; 2003 cap: $1.13M); RB Tavian Banks (FA; terms unknown); P
Mitch Berger (UFA Rams; $4.205M/5 yrs, $450,000 SB/$50,000 RB; 2003 cap:
$837,500); QB Todd Bouman (trade Vikings); OT Wayne Gandy (UFA Steelers; $25M/6
yrs, $5M SB; 2003 cap: $2.833M); LB Orlando Ruff (UFA Chargers; $3.17M/3 yrs,
$375,000 SB; 2003 cap: $825,000).
PLAYERS LOST: LB Charlie Clemons (UFA
Texans; terms unknown); QB Jake Delhomme (UFA Panthers; $4M/2 yrs, $1.5M
SB/$400,000 report bonus); P Toby Gowin (UFA Cowboys); $3.889M/5 yrs, $500,000
SB); TE Lamont Hall (FA Falcons; 1 yr, terms unknown); CB Ken Irvin (UFA
Vikings; $4.5M/3 yrs, $1.2M SB); OT Kyle Turley (traded Rams).
WATCH: No updates.