Vultures are circling the New Orleans Saints. Fans and speculators see their 2-5 record and daunting salary cap outlook, and the upcoming NFL trade deadline on Nov. 1 is all the reason they need to start imagining the Saints’ star talent suiting up for other teams as New Orleans enters a difficult rebuild.
But it just doesn’t make sense right now. The Saints could tear everything down to the foundations and still not accomplish anything: the midseason timing means they won’t save much against the salary cap, inquiring teams aren’t going to feel pressured to put their most valuable assets on the table, and their injury-plagued roster would only get worse in such a move.
So if a contender like the Buffalo Bills or, Heaven forbid, the Philadelphia Eagles came calling after star running back Alvin Kamara — offloading him wouldn’t be worth it. Not even if a Christian McCaffrey-sized trade package was offered. The San Francisco 49ers acquired McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for second-, third-, and fourth-round picks in 2023, and a fifth rounder in 2024. It made sense for Carolina to accept that after firing their head coach and waving the white flag on their quarterback situation.
That isn’t where the Saints are. They’re sticking with Andy Dalton under center, for now, having seen him double the offense’s scoring output (averaging 31 points per game but taking 4 sacks and creating 5 turnovers) without either of his top two receivers after taking over for Jameis Winston (who managed 17 points per game the first three weeks, taking 11 sacks and committing 8 turnovers). They’ve sustained so many injuries in the secondary, which was supposed to have been the strength of their team, that it’s reasonable to think they’ll improve quickly upon getting healthy. The team has circled the wagons around Dennis Allen, for good or bad.
There’s an argument towards trading Kamara if the right offer presents itself, sure, but it isn’t very compelling. Right now Kamara is stepping up as a team leader and calling for greater accountability — telling ESPN’s Katherine Terrell that he and all of his teammates need to look out for each other all of the time, taking steps in practice to watch out for bad habits and work on erasing penalties. It’s the sort of thing Allen should be doing as head coach, but if Kamara is taking a more vocal approach to his role as team captain, well, bully for him.
That’s why Kamara is worth more to this team than a handful of draft picks a year or two away from now. He’s worth more than his stat line, too: 77 carries for 351 yards and 24 receptions for 191 yards is hardly impressing anyone, and there’s the danger of scouting the box score. Kamara is the kind of talent that forces defenses to plan for him and create opportunities for others. If opponents are putting their best linebackers and safeties in coverage against him and loading the box with seven or eight defenders when he’s in the backfield, that’s going to mean someone else is open or facing a better matchup.
And there’s the true story here. The Saints need to focus on building around Kamara, not entertaining other teams that want to trade for him at a discount. He’s a 27-year old star talent in the prime of his career. When looking for their next quarterback, whoever that is, showing an ability to maximize Kamara’s skills is a priority. Andy Dalton has done a better job of that (Kamara is averaging 6.3 receptions for 57.3 yards per game with him) than Jameis Winston has (Kamara has paced 3.4 receptions and 29.5 yards per game with Winston dating back to last season), but he still hasn’t approached the heights he reached with Drew Brees throwing to him. Kamara is New Orleans’ most-accomplished player on offense, and whoever is playing quarterback for the Saints must weaponize him. That helps explain why Dalton is the starter, not Winston, but it’s still a low bar. The Saints should be looking to raise it, not run away from it.