NEW ORLEANS In case you missed it, sit back, relax and digest the CliffsNotes version of the first two days of free agency for the New Orleans Saints.
▪ On Thursday, team signs well-traveled wide receiver/return specialist Ted Ginn Jr., in addition to middle linebacker A.J. Klein and guard Larry Warford, and released overpaid, underachieving safety Jairus Byrd with three years remaining on a six-year, $54 million contract.
▪ On Friday night, team trades speedy fourth-year wide receiver Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick (No. 118) to the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots for first- and third-round picks (Nos. 32 and 103).
Synopsis: Ginn, who turns 32 April 12, replaces the 23-year-old Cooks as the team's primary deep threat and the Black and Gold add to a growing cache to presumably upgrade a talent- and statistically-challenged defense.
The trade went down almost two years to the day after the Saints shipped scoring machine tight end Jimmy Graham and a fourth-round pick to Super Bowl XLIX runnerup Seattle for Pro Bowl center Max Unger and a first round pick (No. 31).
Anyone else see the striking similarities in the two deals?
The Cooks trade doesn't necessarily close the door on the Saints continuing their pursuit of Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX with his last second goalline intereception that preserved a 28-24 victory against the Seahawks.
Butler has been tendered a $3.91 million offer from the Patriots as an restricted free agent but cannot be part of any trade until under contract.
Thus, we are left to mull the current events.
I didn't disagree with the Graham trade two years ago, so I'm certainly not going to question the expected departure of Cooks, a highly productive receiver and budding prima donna.
Not much has changed since Graham's exit March 11, 2015 — two more 7-9 seasons add up to a 21-27 scorecard since reaching the postseason in 2013. That said, their recent inability to eclipse the .500 mark and return to the playoffs has little to do with Sean Payton's offense and everything to do with Sean Payton's defense.
The Drew Brees-led offense continues to be prolific with replacement parts, largely because of No. 9's ability to make everybody around him better and Payton's tried-and-true multiple scheme.
The bottom line is defense wins championships.
On paper, it appears the Patriots struck a better deal in the Cooks' trade, acquiring a proven receiver/game changer for the last pick in the first round and only falling back from the end of the third round to the middle of the fourth round.
The success or failure of this trade for the Saints will be determined by what they do with the 32nd and 103rd overall picks, whether they package them with other picks such as their own No. 11 to make a splash or if they use them independently.
I know this: Those picks better produce a bigger bang than in the 2015 draft when the Saints spent No. 31 on Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony, who appears to have been fool's gold. He led the team in tackles as the starting middle linebacker during his rookie season, then was banished to the background last season.
Unheralded linebacker Craig Robinson played well in the middle last season and now it appears the newly-acquired Klein will be the man in the middle this season.
Where Anthony fits in the defensive puzzle is anyone's guess.
That's why the Cooks-for-picks trade needs to play itself out. It's not how a trade starts but how it finishes. If the Saints can bolster their deficient defense with the addition of picks 31 and 103, the trade will take on a better look.
Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at email@example.com.