A quick history of the Saints and the NFL trade deadline

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Few teams have been more active at the NFL trade deadline than the New Orleans Saints. They’ve already acquired running back Mark Ingram in a deal with the Houston Texans, adding a much-needed veteran presence to the backfield in someone who already knows the playbook inside and out.

And it’s part of a pattern that goes back to 2017, where the Saints have continued to make an effort at improving their roster up to the last minute. They made in-season deals to bring in help at obvious positions of need like cornerback and linebacker, and we shouldn’t rule out another deadline deal from them this season. Let’s recap the last few years:

2020: Saints trade for San Francisco 49ers LB Kwon Alexander

New Orleans Saints middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (58) jogs during pre-game warm-ups before an NFL preseason football game against the Baltimore Ravens Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

New Orleans acquired Alexander for a conditional draft pick — a fifth rounder in 2021 that could have been delayed to 2022 if Alexander didn’t play a high enough percentage of the team’s defensive snaps. But he proved to be a big addition until his late-season Achilles injury, so the Saints ended up without a fifth round choice this year (San Francisco spent that pick on cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, who started two games before being bumped down to a special teams role).

2019: Saints make a run at Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders

Dec 8, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (17) makes a catch in front of New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) in the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Sanders scored on the play. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints were in on Sanders at the 2020 deadline, but they balked at a price the San Francisco 49ers were willing to pay — exchanging third- and fourth-round picks in 2020 to acquire the veteran receiver, plus a Denver fifth rounder. That addition helped power San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance (and a big win in New Orleans), though Sanders ended up signing with the Saints as a free agent in the subsequent offseason.

2018: Saints trade for New York Giants CB Eli Apple

Nov 11, 2018; Cincinnati, OH, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Eli Apple (25) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pas against the Cincinnati Bengals in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With cornerback an obviously glaring roster need at midseason, the Saints made a big move to bring in Apple — paying up a 2019 fourth-round pick as well as seventh-round choice in 2020. Apple didn’t meet expectations in New Orleans and was not re-signed after his contract expired, going on to play (briefly) with the Carolina Panthers in 2020 before landing with the Cincinnati Bengals this year, where he’s been a steady starter.

So will the Saints make another trade?

Maybe the Saints aren’t looking to move any more future assets around after picking up Ingram (specific trade terms remain undisclosed, but reportedly involve future late-round picks) and trading for cornerback Bradley Roby earlier this season (which cost a third rounder in 2022 and a conditional sixth-round choice in 2023).

Even with more compensatory selections working down the pipeline, they risk jeopardizing too much of their future in transactions focused on the present. At the same time there’s a lot to be said for maintaining a winning culture now even in transition from a Drew Brees-led era to, well, whatever comes next. Maybe Jameis Winston can quarterback the team for another ten years. It’s tough to decide that without giving him a viable supporting cast to audition with.

So if I’m putting my name on it: I think the Saints will look into various underperforming veterans and underwhelming youngsters around the league at wide receiver, but they aren’t going to put any serious trade compensation on the table. And they will be buyers, not sellers, at the deadline. This Saints team has shown enough to suggest they can get frisky later this season and push towards the playoffs.

They’ve just got a very specific price in mind when it comes to haggling with other teams, and they’re willing to stand pat if they can’t cut a deal on their terms. Exciting as an Allen Robinson or Brandin Cooks or Odell Beckham Jr. trade would be, I can’t see the Saints putting enough on the table to make that happen.

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