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Saints #1 Priority Going Forward: DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE

Photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert

Almost some 48 hours now after Saints fans nearly tore their hair out after the news that wide receiver Brandin Cooks had been traded away to the Evil Empire a.k.a. the New England Patriots for what amounted to "peanuts" in the eyes of some, word came that New Orleans had accepted the "best possible" offer they were going to get for the disgruntled star.

We now know after a report last night that New Orleans chose instead to accept the Patriots' offer of a 1st and a 3rd Round pick, over the not-as-enticing offer of 3rd and 4th Round picks along with All-Pro free safety (and former Saint) Malcom Jenkins from the Philadelphia Eagles.

A report of a possible offer for Cooks from Tennessee for their #18 overall pick in Round #1 went unsubstantiated; and by all accounts the Saints smartly moved Cooks, whom was dead-set on leaving New Orleans, to the Patriots in what can only be viewed as a disappointing end to Cooks' 3-year stay of a 4-year rookie contract that he signed after the team traded up to get him in the 1st Round of the 2014 Draft --- giving up then a 3rd Round pick to the Arizona Cardinals in the process.

Make no mistake about it: the Saints will miss the speedy and talented Cooks, who added a dimension to the Saints offense that it really hasn't ever had not only in the Sean Payton Era, but perhaps in the team's entire 50-and-a-half year history. You have to go back to Saints 1978 #1 Draft pick Wes Chandler, to find a receiver nearly with the game-breaking ability on both offense and special teams play that Cooks possessed.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

But the Saints offense will survive and eventually thrive WITHOUT Cooks, as it always has regardless of which combination of receivers are placed around quarterback Drew Brees in the Sean Payton-devised offense. The Saints offense succeeds because Brees makes the receivers around him better --- not the other way around.

That's the way that it's always been since the day nearly 11 years ago that then-brand new Saints head coach Sean Payton and New Orleans signed the former San Diego Chargers QB Drew Brees in 2006 Free Agency. And as far as anyone can see, that's still unlikely to change for these next few remaining years of Brees' illustrious NFL career.

Instead, the Saints now have a new #1 priority going forward from this point, and it can be summed up quite simply in this manner:


Now armed with 3 of the first 42 and 5 out of first 103 picks of next month's 2017 NFL Draft, the Saints have a mandate: to continue the rebuild that they first began back in the 2015 off-season --- with nearly little to no success so far --- of their (at times) godawful and stunningly bad defensive unit.

It's a defense that over the past 3 seasons has been one of the League's absolute worst, and the clear-cut main reason why they've had 3 straight losing seasons, 3 straight 7-9 finishes that have kept them at home and caused them 3 straight times to miss the NFL Playoffs.

Photo courtesy of Derek C. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans has gotten off to a great start so far in the first week of 2017 NFL Free Agency, after re-signing starting defensive tackle Nick Fairley to a new 4-year contract, and signing back-up Carolina Panthers linebacker A.J. Klein to presumably become their new starting middle linebacker.

But several holes still remain, most notably at edge pass rusher / defensive end (on the opposite side of All-Pro veteran Cam Jordan), cornerback, and free safety. Assuming that the Saints DON'T sign anyone else in Free Agency, one would assume that all 3 of those positions will be addressed within those first 103 picks.

IF the Saints don't make any more trades between now and the opening night of the Draft, they will pick at the #11, #32, #42, #74, and #103 spots overall.

That should give them ample opportunity to select some of the best defensive talent in this year's NFL Draft that is said to be one of the best and deepest Draft classes on the defensive side of the football in recent memory.

Sure you can expect the Saints to slip in a running back, wide receiver, or a tight end in there somewhere, to supplement their already powerful offense.

And maybe -- just maybe -- they take a quarterback to become the eventual successor to Drew Brees, once the living legend hangs up his Black and Gold uniform for the final time.

But the mission and mandate is crystal clear:


Saints News Network featured columnist and Big Easy Magazine contributing writer Barry Hirstius is a 52-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and writer previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 45 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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