One of the downsides to building a great team is that there isn’t room for everyone at roster cuts, meaning some good players will be left on the outside looking in. But it’s possible to find a silver lining here by trading players who would otherwise be released outright, bringing back some value where there otherwise would just be a loss. And the New Orleans Saints are looking like a team that could be sellers rather than buyers for once.
NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill reports that the team has been fielding trade calls for various players ahead of the Aug. 30 NFL roster cuts deadline, with other outfits around the league seeing opportunity to upgrade from New Orleans’ depth chart. The Saints are really strong in some areas, likely too strong to retain everyone they’d like to. With Underhill reporting other teams’ interest in “many positions” from the Saints’ roster, let’s speculate a little on which names could be at the center of these trade talks, looking at various depth charts and contract statuses:
TE Nick Vannett
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Vannett’s name has already been brought up by Pro Football Focus insider Doug Kyed, who has spoken with various teams around the NFL who see him as the likely odd man out at tight end. If the Saints are confident that Taysom Hill, Adam Trautman, and Juwan Johnson can see them through then it makes sense to part ways with Vannett. They could recoup as much as $3 million against the cap by trading the 29-year old blocking specialist, though they don’t really need it while resting under the cap by more than $11 million.
WR Deonte Harty
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It would be really shocking to see Harty moved. He was the team’s best deep threat last year and broke out in a big way with Jameis Winston at quarterback, setting career-highs with 36 receptions for 570 yards (15.8 yards per catch), converting 23 first downs and reeling in 5 touchdown passes. He also remains New Orleans’ primary returns specialist. But he’s in a contract year, with extension talks stalling out, and the Saints guaranteed a lot of money to undrafted rookie Rashid Shaheed as his possible replacement. If another team makes a strong offer, they could choose to part ways with Harty a year early. However, any team that acquires him is going to be pressured into signing a long-term extension.
WR Marquez Callaway
AP Photo/Derick Hingle
It wouldn’t be as surprising to see Callaway moved, which is wild considering he was the Saints’ top receiver a year ago. But he’s at best a backup to Michael Thomas who would have to play heavy minutes on special teams in order to dress on game days. He struggled to stand out in an improved receiving corps early in training camp. Callaway is more of a known quantity after his impressive 46-698-6 line last season. One would think there is stronger trade interest in him than another player on the roster bubble like, say, Tre’Quan Smith (who didn’t get any substantial offers in free agency during the spring). Callaway is headed for restricted free agency in the spring, effectively giving any team that holds his contract another year of low-cost control.
CB Bradley Roby
AP Photo/Derick Hingle
Roby has enjoyed a very successful summer with the Saints, performing well enough to where he’d be a locked-in starter almost any other year. But he’s playing behind Marshon Lattimore, Paulson Adebo, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson as the team’s top three corners and faces slim odds of getting many snaps this year. New Orleans also drafted Alontae Taylor in the second round to push Roby, though the rookie has missed a lot of practice time with a hip flexor injury. If there’s another team who could use an experienced, starting cornerback then Roby has to be an appealing trade target. Moving him would only save the Saints $1.12 million against the cap this year, so there isn’t much incentive from their perspective to offload him, though he’s set to earn more than $4.1 million against the cap in each of the next two seasons.
S C.J. Gardner-Johnson
AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio
Deep breaths, people. Let’s look at the facts here. Gardner-Johnson is an impact defender on this team, and he’s been a huge part of their success by defending the run as well as any linebacker and allowing them to run more plays out of nickel and dime packages than their base unit. He’s also eager to get a new contract while playing out the final year of his rookie deal, even “holding in” at camp for a few days to push the issue. And the Saints haven’t re-upped him in spite of it. They’re so deep at defensive back that there’s a real possibility another team tries to make a move for Gardner-Johnson, and they just might do it. They could try Roby, Taylor, P.J. Williams, Justin Evans, or someone else in the slot and take any future cap resources allotted for Gardner-Johnson towards re-signing someone else. All I’m telling you is there’s a chance.
DE Tanoh Kpassagnon
AP Photo/Terrance Williams
Kpassagnon has been competing with Taco Charlton for the last roster spot at defensive end, and it’s a credit to Charlton that it’s been such a tight battle. But Kpassagnon has been a healthy scratch at times for New Orleans whenever Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport, and Payton Turner have all been active together, with Carl Granderson finding more success on third downs as a pass rusher. If a player in the group was going to be moved, Kpassagnon feels like the best candidate. He brings some flexibility as an interior rusher as well as an edge presence, which should appeal to many teams needing more juice up front, and any team acquiring him is only on the hook for $1.035 million, making it a very easy contract to absorb. You’d rather see the Saints retain veteran depth here, but it’s possible another team makes it worth their while.