• The Saints have nailed their last few drafts, so now the team is going for broke, trading away draft picks to bring in the pieces of the puzzle needed to win now.
By Jonathan Jones
October 23, 2018

The 5–1 New Orleans Saints are doing everything in their power to make sure they maximize Drew Brees’s final years.

On Tuesday, the Saints sent one of their precious remaining draft picks to the Giants in exchange for cornerback Eli Apple, strengthening the obvious weak link for the NFC contenders just before the trade deadline. No, Apple is not at all Patrick Peterson, but with little cap room and few 2019 draft assets, it’s the best New Orleans could do.

Recall when the Saints traded for Teddy Bridgewater before the start of the season. Based on his contract, it was hardly a move for the future for New Orleans. Instead it proved the Saints were in win-now mode, choosing to invest in a capable backup in case anything happened to Brees to maintain a chance for the playoffs.

You can view the Apple trade through a similar lens. The Saints, already down a first- and third-round pick in 2019 after trading for Bridgewater and trading up to draft Marcus Davenport, sent a ’19 fourth-rounder and ’20 seventh-rounder to New York to get Apple. As it stands today, the Saints have just one pick (a second-rounder) through the first four rounds of next year’s draft.

New Orleans is selling out now, in part, because of how well it drafted in 2017, nabbing four starters—including the offensive and defensive rookies of the year—in the first 67 picks. Brees, under contract through his age 40 season in 2019, has said he could play until he’s 45, and he’s no doubt looking for a second ring before hitting that milestone. The Saints obviously figure they’ll cash out the 2019 draft in order to make that happen sooner than later and worry about the consequences when they pair the Lombardi from the ’10 season with another.

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The trade makes sense for both sides. The Saints were in desperate need of a corner opposite Marshon Lattimore on a defense that ranks 28th in passing yards allowed and has just two interceptions. And despite Patrick Peterson’s overtures to return to the state of Louisiana, it would have been difficult for a cap-strapped Saints team with no first-round pick to do a deal with a Cardinals team that has already publicly stated they won’t trade their Pro Bowl corner.

It gives New York more draft capital following what is sure to be a lost 2018 season and takes the decision of picking up Apple’s fifth-year option off their table. It also frees the Giants and first-year general manager Dave Gettleman of any future potential headaches caused by Apple, whose family issues made their way into the Giants locker room at times last season. Now the former Ohio State standout joins a Saints team filled with Buckeyes—Lattimore, Vonn Bell, Kurt Coleman, Ted Ginn Jr., Michael Thomas and J.T. Barrett—to make things feel a little more like home.

The Giants probably got as much as they could for a player still bouncing back from a tough season, and the Saints found their best available option to fix the weakest unit on a team that should be playing deep into January.

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