Brian Allee-Walsh

Did the Saints give up too much to land their defensive end in the draft?

Time will tell whether New Orleans Saints officials over-paid to move up 13 spots in the first round of the 83rd annual NFL draft to acquire UT-San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport with the 14th overall pick.

Most post-draft analyses indicate Davenport is a worthy selection at No. 14 but not at the compensation GM Mickey Loomis handed to the Green Bay Packers — first- and fifth-round picks in 2018 and a first-rounder in '19. It is the kind of pick package that typically would result in the selection of a quarterback perhaps, but not a defensive end.

I understand that position from a historical perspective.

According to Mike Triplett, who covers the Saints for ESPN.com, history shows that few teams in the common-draft era ever trade two first-round picks to draft a non-quarterback.

In other words, it just isn't done and certainly not done to acquire a rookie outside of the top 10.

As I wrote in last Sunday's piece for the Sun Herald, the Saints are going all-in to win Super Bowl LIII and secure a second Lombardi Trophy before 39-year-old quarterback Drew Brees calls it a career.

And their football operations, led by Loomis, believe strongly that a pass rusher — albeit a raw prospect with tremendous upside — will help accomplish their goal sooner rather than later. Saints officials tried to get pass-rushing help in free agency, but decided not to pull the trigger after holding on-campus visits with marquee veterans Muhammad Wilkerson and Ndamukong Suh. Each came with baggage and I suspect sought more money than the Saints were willing to pay.

Ultimately, each signed one-year deals with other teams — Wilkerson with the Packers ($5 million, including $1.5 signing bonus) and Suh with the Los Angeles Rams ($14 million, no signing bonus).

Several years ago, in the days prior to the arrival of assistant GM/director of college scouting Jeff Ireland, perhaps the Saints would have backed up the Brinks truck and paid/overpaid Wilkerson or Suh.

So, it seems the Saints have learned from past questionable personnel decisions when it comes to signing prized free agents.

And that's a good thing.

By contrast, Davenport will come to the Saints at a relatively cheap price.. According to Spotrac, he will count less than $3 million against the cap in his rookie season, a figure that will climb incrementally with each invested year through at least 2021 and '22 if the Saints pick up his fifth-year option.

Keep in mind, if Davenport proves himself and justifies the Saints' bold and calculated move, then it won't matter that the team thumbed their nose at NFL history and packaged a trade consisting of draft picks usually reserved for a quarterback.

To which I say ... Lamar Jackson who?

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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