When last we saw each other, the first item on my Saints wish list for 2015 was a nasty OG to sure up the offensive line. One to help protect drew Brees up the middle and two to further enhance the running game which showed potential in the second half of 2014.
Well, the Saints went one better. They traded for Seattle All-Pro center Max Unger and a #1 draft pick in exchange for All-pro TE Jimmy Graham and a 4th rd draft pick.
Yes, the Saints got nasty on the O-line today. Unger is a no-nonsense, tough as nails leader who, at center who will upgrade the play of the entire unit. He is the type of gritty player the Saints have sorely lacked as of late.
Unfortunately, to get something you must give up something.
While Jimmy Graham will be missed as a receiving TE, his lack of blocking skills have made him expendable. Word is he's also become a bit of a diva since signing the big contract. As the Saints begin a paradigm shift in their offensive philosophy, a blocking TE will be needed more than a receiving TE.
Personally, I will miss pre-contract Jimmy Graham. He provided more highlights than can be counted. He was a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses. When the Saints needed a big play, Brees to Graham was among the most feared combinations in the NFL.
But in games that mattered most, Graham disappeared. He was exposed as being weak minded and surprisingly shut downable when matched up with a CB with size(Patriots' Aqib Talib) or a safety with speed(Ravens' Will Hill) or any defense named the Seahawks.
Back to Unger. This deal, to me, signals a shift in the Saints offensive philosophy. With the re-signing of Mark Ingram, continued development of Khiry Robinson and the farewell to Pierre Thomas, it appears Sean Payton has concluded that power is better than finesse. Look for the Saints to emphasize the power running game more in 2015.
Why the shift?
1. To protect the franchise. Even at 36, Drew Brees still drives the car. A better running game will keep the heat up the middle off him.
2. To protect the defense. A power running game keeps the clock running, the opponents offense off the field and best yet, keeps YOUR crappy defense off the field.
Whether Payton displays the discipline needed to stick with the running game remains to be seen. But it appears he's willing to give it try.
So a big welcome for Max Unger, a much needed force on the offensive line.
As for Saints fans mourning the loss of yet another Saints great moving on to another team, don't forget, the Saints won a Super Bowl before any of us ever heard of Jimmy Graham.