If the New Orleans Saints can’t land Malcolm Butler, their 2017 season won’t be over. But it’ll hurt.
Robert Kraft, in an interview with Nick Underhill, said that he hopes Malcolm Butler stays in New England. Some outlets, the NFL for example, twisted the story a bit. Headlines ran that the Patriots don’t intend to trade Butler. And while Kraft did say, “I hope he’s with us and signs his offer sheet and plays for us,” that headline is more than a bit misleading. He still might end up with the New Orleans Saints.
In the first place, Robert Kraft went on to say that he has no final say in the decision for whether or not to trade Butler. Belichick runs the football side of things. Kraft seems to be speaking more in the role of a fan than as a GM.
And in the second place, any GM, coach or owner would say the same thing in this situation. The trade hasn’t gone through, there are no guarantees. So don’t burn your bridges, and don’t overplay your hand. ‘If Butler stays in New England, everyone in the Patriots organization will be happy.’ That’s the lip service. Sean Payton tried to say a similar thing about Brandin Cooks, though that ship had sailed a bit already.
What I mean to say: there’s still every possibility that Malcolm Butler winds up in New Orleans. I tend to think he will. I’m tired of waiting on news of the trade, but that’s life.
Still, it’s worth considering where the Saints would be if Butler did not get traded.
The roster, as we all know, has talent in the secondary. But it’s riddled with injury questions.
I don’t expect Delvin Breaux’s injuries will be, in any way, recurring. He has shown a propensity for injury, but not so bad as some other players. I think the Saints can rely on him to stay reasonably healthy throughout a season, as much as they can rely on any player.
But behind him, there aren’t enough sure things. P.J. Williams. Damian Swann. Kyle Wilson. All injured, with potentially recurring injuries. The Saints can’t in good conscience rely on these players to play a full season.
Sterling Moore and Ken Crawley are waiting in the wings. But neither will light the world on fire.
In the best case scenario, Williams, Swann, Wilson and Breaux are injury free. In that case, the Saints don’t necessarily need more CB help. They could use an upgrade opposite Breaux if the right piece falls in the draft, but they don’t need it.
But in the worst case, if Williams and Swann can’t overcome their concussions, if Wilson’s injury flares up again, if Breaux goes down for some other reason (as I said, he’s bordering on injury-prone) then the Saints are stuck with their 2016 CBs. That’s not a good look.
There are still free agents to add if Butler falls through.
And I expect, in that situation, the Saints would make a run for some. Alterraun Verner is a name I like.
Alterraun Verner is a name I like. And there are others. Sam Shields and Brandon Flowers come with injury questions of their own, but you figure if you throw enough at the wall something will stick. Lardarius Webb and Tramon Williams are up there in age, but have had solid careers. PRob is a free agent.
But you can tell from looking at this list: there isn’t a great talent pool left to choose from. Hell, I just said PRob is a free agent.
The Saints would need to look CB early and often in the draft.
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This is a deep CB draft class. But injuries to some of the top prospects may create an early run at the position.
If the Saints can’t land Butler, it puts them in a bit of a bind with regards their draft order. DE still likely goes first, and then you can spend the next few picks on CB. When you’re looking at finding a rookie CB to come in a contribute, it’s best to have a few options.
And that leaves the Saints less able to address what is, in my mind, an even more pressing hole than CB: Safety. With Jairus Byrd set to be released, the Saints badly need a safety who can come in and compete for a spot in the three-safety sets, or possibly even compete for the starting job with Vonn Bell.
Simply put: the draft class is deep enough for the Saints to address their CB needs. But without Butler, the need for CB would cripple the team’s ability to fill other holes along the roster.
The Saints need to find DL talent, RB talent, CB and S talent even with Butler, possibly add some LBs and a backup OT, maybe a QB, maybe a WR. That’s plenty of holes. Ideally they’d go DE twice in the draft. But with only seven picks, does that leave enough for them to address their other needs?
I believe the Saints will manage to trade for Malcolm Butler. But it’s no sure thing, and it’s important to look at the situation they’d be in if the trade fell through.
They could survive. But they’d be much worse off.