What could a blockbuster Saints-Chiefs trade for Terron Armstead look like?

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John Sigler
·7 min read
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So here’s a fun exercise. The Kansas City Chiefs felt this year’s painful salary cap crunch and released both of their starting offensive tackles, Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, putting them in a real bind. It makes sense for them to turn over every stone in search of better protection after Patrick Mahomes was overwhelmed by the Buccaneers pass rush in Super Bowl LV, which brings them to the New Orleans Saints.

Well, it brings Chiefs Wire’s Charles Goldman to my inbox. Charles and I teamed up for mock trade talks to see what it would take to make both sides happy, and whether we could reach a deal at all. Here’s how it played out:

Charles Goldman: Would the Saints ever trade Terron Armstead in a cap-clearing move? I know he’d free about $11.6 million in cap space if he were traded and only has one year left on his deal?

John Sigler: I don’t think that has legs. He’s a cornerstone player for New Orleans and a big selling point to any free agent quarterbacks they’re looking at. They’re only about $12 to $15 million over the salary cap right now, and he could sign an extension soon to reduce his $16 million cap figure and remain with the team.

If he were moved, it would take a return comparable to the Laremy Tunsil trade, which brought in multiple draft picks and a couple of role players. It’s not like the Trent Williams situation where the player was holding out and demanding a trade, though Armstead’s age and injury history better compare to Williams than Tunsil.

CG: Do you think they would take a player on their rookie deal in return too? Maybe someone like WR Mecole Hardman? Could be a good replacement for WR Emmanuel Sanders.

JS: Yeah I could see it. Their projected No. 2 wide receiver, Tre’Quan Smith, is entering a contract year and never been a consistent receiving threat. Hardman would be a nice addition along with a high draft pick or two. He’s an ascendant player who’s just 23 (happy birthday to him, by the way) with 4.33 speed, and he’s still improving after playing quarterback and corner before switching positions a few years ago. Make me an offer.

CG: Let’s consult one of those nifty trade value charts. You would get our Round 2 Pick No. 63, our Round 4 Pick No. 144, and WR Mecole Hardman in exchange for LT Terron Armstead and a future Round 5 pick.

JS: Multiple picks are enticing but I need a first rounder to justify moving Armstead. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler and an All-Pro quality left tackle. We are so close to reaching cap compliance that we don’t have to move him if we don’t want to. No. 31 has to be on the table.

Additionally, we have more receivers under contract than almost any other position. Hardman would be a nice upgrade but it’s not as critical a hole to fill as, say, cornerback. L’Jarius Snead made a great impression in his game against us and his overall tape is solid for a rookie. We need a new corner after cutting Janoris Jenkins.

So here’s a counter offer: we get Round 1 Pick 31, WR Mecole Hardman, and CB L’Jarius Snead in exchange for LT Terron Armstead and a future Round 5 pick.

CG: Sneed is untouchable for now. But I think we could offer pick No. 31. I see you just released DT Malcolm Brown. We’ve got a surplus of DT talent. How about this for a counteroffer: Round Pick 31, Round 4 Pick 144, and DT Khalen Saunders for LT Terron Armstead and a future 5th round pick.

JS: Saunders is interesting but we have several young defensive tackles we like to help replace Brown. We really need a corner in this deal worse than an interior lineman. What about Charvarius Ward? He’s worked with our new secondary coach Kris Richard in Dallas; Richard probably helped recruit him as an undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee. Let’s get them back together.

And let’s not take Hardman off the table so quickly. In my mind, we’re swapping that 2022 fifth rounder for him. Giving up a pick along with Armstead for just another pick and a player isn’t tenable. We’re totally fine with extending his contract and not making a move at all.

So how’s this: Round 1 Pick 31, CB Charvarius Ward, plus WR Mecole Hardman for LT Terron Armstead and a 2022 Round 5 pick.

CG: If you can bump the future pick to a fourth rounder, we’ve got a deal. With Charvarius Ward, he’s a restricted free agent — we could do a sign-and-trade or tender him and trade him and let you handle the details.

JS: Let’s make it conditional based on playing time. If Armstead plays 75% or more of offensive snaps in 2021, it becomes a fourth rounder. If he doesn’t meet that threshold, it remains a fifth rounder.

And let’s tender Ward at the lowest level ($2.133 million) to facilitate the trade. He’ll have an opportunity to earn a long-term extension starting opposite Marshon Lattimore, who we also hope to extend in the days ahead.

CG: Groovy.

JS: Good doing business with you.

So let’s review the deal, what the Saints lost, and what they’ve gotten out of it.

Trading Armstead in the final year of his contract yields $6,612,500 in salary cap savings but opens a huge hole in the offensive line. The immediate replacement plan is to shift Ryan Ramczyk back to left tackle, where he played in college at Wisconsin (which is timely, because he’s due a long-term contract extension this year or next). Right tackles are undervalued and the Saints should be able to find a good one with one of their first-round picks.

I would have liked to get more draft picks out of this but given the Saints’ struggles to find high-impact players lately, well, I’d rather take more proven quantities in Ward and Hardman. Additionally, Armstead has only played 80% and 88% of snaps the last two years; he’s only met that 75% conditional threshold once before, back in 2015. There’s a good chance we keep our fourth rounder next year, but even if it’s lost we still have the fifth round pick.

As for the players: we added speed, youth, and most importantly affordable talent at two positions of need. Hardman is under contract through 2022. He also leads the NFL in touchdown catches of 20-plus yards out of the slot since 2019, and ranks second-best in the league in yards gained after the catch per reception (8.8) in that span. He’s a cost-effective, big-play threat every time he touches the ball, which is what the Saints need at receiver.

I wanted someone with a lighter injury history and a longer contract than Ward, but he’s a good fit. He flirted with Pro Bowl status in 2019 but missed time in 2020 with a fractured hand. Still, he’ll have started in 38 of his 51 NFL game appearances (including 8 playoff games and two Super Bowls) before his 25th birthday. He’s got plenty of pro experience and is in a great spot to cash in next summer while replacing Jackrabbit Jenkins. Reuniting him with Richard could pay off in a big way.

So what do you think? Was the view worth the climb here? The Saints may have plugged some holes on their roster while creating a new one, but it might take creative (and sometimes difficult) solutions like this to compete again in 2021. There’s a ton of uncertainty surrounding the post-Drew Brees era, and it’s anyone’s guess where the Saints might be a year from now.

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