Trade for Saints: I think you can say this is the most surprising move of the day. With probably the least financial flexibility of any team in the NFL, the Saints came up with a creative way to get under the cap for this year and give them added flexibility long-term and it involved parting ways with a player they gave a 4-year, 40 million dollar deal to last off-season. Jimmy Graham and the remaining 27 million over 3 years go to the Seahawks in the deal, along with a 4th rounder, while Seattle’s first round pick comes back to New Orleans along with center Max Unger, who is owed just 9 million over the next 2 seasons.
A lot of Saints fans will undoubtedly be sad to see Jimmy Graham go, but I like this move for them. There’s a drop off in talent from Graham to Unger and their offense immediately becomes worse as a result of this move, but the difference in value between a 1st and 4th round pick is significant, as is the difference in these two players’ contracts. Besides, Unger will slot in at a position of need for the Saints at center and he’s a very solid player.
Unger was Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked center last season, despite playing just 385 snaps. No one played fewer snaps and graded out better at the position. He missed 10 games with injury last season and the Seahawks desperately missed him when he was out of the lineup. Injuries have been an issue for him in the past as he’s missed 29 games in 6 seasons in the league with injury. Inconsistency is also a problem as, while he was dominant on the field last season and while he was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked center in 2012, those are the only two seasons he’s been in the top-10 among centers on Pro Football Focus. Still, he’s graded out above average in 5 of 6 seasons in the NFL and getting him at 9 million over 2 years is a better value than Graham over 27 million over 3, which is very important for the Saints. Add in the swap of picks and I think the Saints made a smart move.
Trade for Seahawks: As I hinted at above, I think the Saints were the winners here. This trade kind of reminds me of the Percy Harvin deal, when the Seahawks were so desperate for a playmaker that they overpaid. Graham should work out in Seattle much better than Harvin did and he fills a huge need for them. Graham for 27 million over 3 years is by no means a bad contract, but they gave up a first round pick and an underpaid center for him. The Seahawks’ offensive line is now in terrible shape as Unger was the only offensive lineman on the roster to grade out positively last season.