Saints, Eagles Strike Trade for Draft Picks

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Just 24 days before night one of the 2022 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles have agreed to a trade that involves three first-round picks this year and an additional first next year, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

This NFL Draft trade features the Eagles, who held three first-round picks entering the day, giving up the 16th overall pick, the 19th overall pick, and a 6th rounder (pick 194 overall) to the Saints in exchange for the 18th overall pick, a third-round pick (pick 101 overall), a seventh-round pick (pick 237 overall), a 2023 first-rounder, and a 2024 second.

Philadelphia holds 10 total picks in this month’s draft, five of which will be in the first three rounds, while New Orleans will have seven selections, four of which coming in the draft’s first two days.

What This Means for the Eagles

In the immediate aftermath of this NFL Draft trade, Schefter reported that this likely ensures Jalen Hurts will start for the second consecutive season in Philadelphia. With the Eagles’ three first-round picks, some had speculated that the team could move up and select a quarterback in this year’s draft.

2023 is a much better class at the quarterback position, featuring Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Philadelphia is now well-positioned to move up, should Jalen Hurts turn in an underwhelming season and neither of their first-round picks put them in position to select their preferred choice. 

The Eagles continue to put themselves in flexible positions in future drafts with plenty of ammunition to either add cheap, young talent or move the picks for other assets. They’re also still in good shape to address two of their big holes, linebacker and wide receiver, with picks 15 and 18 putting them in prime position to add some of the top players in the class, such as Utah’s Devin Lloyd and USC’s Drake London.

What This Means for the Saints

Before bringing back Jameis Winston, the New Orleans Saints were one of the final two teams in the Deshaun Watson saga (along with the Atlanta Falcons) before Watson changed course and decided on Cleveland. By acquiring an additional first-round pick in 2022, the Saints now have the pieces needed to move up again; they recently had Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, a projected top-10 pick, in for a visit.

An interesting element to this deal is Winston’s contract; it’s a two-year deal worth $28 million and $21 million in guarantees, but features a $14 million signing bonus. It’s primarily a front-loaded contract guarantee-wise, meaning New Orleans wouldn’t suffer having Winston ride the bench in 2023.

Further, now left without a first-rounder in 2023, the Saints don’t have next year as a fallback option; unless they’re all-in on Winston, they’re likely to pursue a quarterback this year.

Should they choose to stick with Winston, New Orleans has a Terron Armstead-sized hole at left tackle. Mississippi State’s Charles Cross is the ideal option for New Orleans, but he’s a likely top-10 pick.

The Saints are also in desperate need of a wide receiver. Michael Thomas hasn’t been able to stay on the field the past two seasons, and the room around him is rather lackluster. Ohio State’s Chris Olave is one name to monitor at the position.

Regardless, with the picks they gave up, the Saints appear to believe they can contend in the NFC this year. That philosophy lends itself favorably to addressing OT and WR, but another trade-up seems likely nonetheless.

Who Won the Trade?

Ultimately, nobody can truly win until all of these picks are made and they’re given time to produce. However, on paper, the Philadelphia Eagles got the better deal.

ESPN’s Seth Walder reported that the Eagles “gained the equivalent of a late-first rounder in value through the trade IF — and this is a big if — we treat 2022 and 2023 picks as equals in terms of value.”

Teams often tend to under-value future draft picks, but if this deal gets the Saints two immediate starters and a playoff berth, it’s ultimately a win for them. However, should the Saints fail to hit on their picks and trend towards a rebuild, this deal could be heavily detrimental in the long run.

That’s the fun part of this specific NFL Draft trade and others like it — very easy to analyze, but very hard to accurately project long-term effects, as value changes once the players’ careers play out.

Atlanta Falcons Week 1 Reactions

Hello Falcons fans, this dreary and depressing column is going to be going over our season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. For those who chose not to watch the game or couldn’t watch the game, you didn’t really miss much. The Falcons lost our home opener in the Benz, 32-6 against the Eagles. It was ugly, it was painful, and it felt like a straight up slap in the face. But there were some bright spots and some small glimmers of hope for our emotionally toxic team.

When the game kicked off there was plenty of excitement inside the Benz because we had yet to see the starters really play this preseason due to Arthur Smith wanting to make sure we came into the season without injuries, which we luckily did not have any significant injury impact a star player. But this tactic of resting the starters came with its own repercussion in the sense that this team was incredibly rusty and just came out flat against the Eagles.

The Offense

Seeing the offensive that we were all expecting to look so much better this season because of a new play caller in Arthur Smith absolutely drop the ball week 1 in front of our own fans was not pretty. The opening two drives by the Falcons looked pretty efficient until they got into the Red zone, and then the normal red zone woes really started. The Falcons had some brutal penalties move them back any time they hit the red zone. But even without those penalties, we struggled with the play calling and execution. There was one TE Leak to Hurst which looked like it would do something, then we had to settle with a field goal because we couldn’t do a thing once we got closer.

Another major issue was after the first two drives when we were no longer calling the scripted plays that we came into the game with. Smith looked like he had no way to even attempt to offset the Eagles defense. I might be slightly over reacting, but that is a concern for me. Smith needs to figure out a way to get the offense clicking if he even wants a shot beating Tampa next week.

I will say though, it is tough for any offense to get firing when your offensive line is getting beaten constantly. Jalen Mayfield at left guard was like one of those fancy revolving doors at a nice classic hotel. There were plenty of times that the play calling and coaching staff would leave Mayfield on an island against Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave which didn’t end well for Matt Ryan.

Atlanta Falcons Jalen Mayfield needs to be directed to the bench

Speaking of Ryan, he had a rough outing against the Eagles. He went 21/35 for 164 yds and 0 TD’s and 0 INT’s. Was it due to the offensive line struggling? I am sure that had something to do with it. But in general a quarterback getting the kind of money that Matt Ryan is getting paid should be elevating the team, but that is an article for another time… The Falcons needed Ryan to play better against the Eagles. At this point we have to hope that Smith and Ryan get on the same page and can figure out the offense’s woes.

But there were some bright spots in this game on the offense. The Falcons offense relied heavily on the play action game which is incredibly refreshing to see after the Dirk Koetter era. Another bright spot was seeing both Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson have an impact on the ground, over 100 yards combined which was nice to see.

The other big bright spot I saw on the offense, was the two tight end sets and plays that were called that got Hurst and Pitts open in space, I talked about the TE leak play to Hurst, but plays like that one, that get our big athletic TE’s moving in space looked good and look like they should be a staple of the offense going forward.

The Defense

Another painful piece of the loss was the defense. The pass rush was none existent and Dean Pees could not figure out a way to stop Jalen Hurts who had over 320 yards by himself. There were some frustrating moments from Deion Jones as he would get himself caught in traffic which in turn would move him out of the play.

But the pass rush being non existent was incredibly disappointing to see. Hopefully we can see them turn it around over the next few weeks but right now I was unimpressed. Fowler and Means didn’t look like they were able to get much going which leaves me very concerned, because if we have another season of Grady Jarrett being our only player who can generate a pass rush we are going to be in for a rough time as fans.

One of the good spots of the defense was our CB play between Oliver, Moreau, and Terrell. They were constantly doing a good job of staying with their mans and didn’t allow a big play. They’re going to have a tough test next week against Tampa Bay’s trio of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown, but I am excited to see how they do.

All in all, the Falcons set the bar incredibly low Week 1 against the Eagles. And if this game was an indicator for the season going forward, we as fans will have a rough year. Hopefully we see them turn it around and put on a better performance on the field, but if for some reason they don’t, at least we have draft season right?

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Pittsburgh Steelers Preseason Cuts: First Round

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won their first two preseason games. But they must make their first round of preseason cuts by Tuesday? Who will be the first players cut?

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Under the most recent CBA, NFL teams must trim their rosters down from 90 to 85 after the first week of preseason games. Luckily, since they played in the Hall of Fame Game, the Pittsburgh Steelers earned another week to evaluate players at the back end of their roster. Nevertheless, come Tuesday, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin will need to remove at least five players from their roster. Therefore, let’s investigate who could be among the first of the Steelers preseason cuts.

One note before we begin: as of press time, there are currently 91 players listed on the Steelers’ active roster. This is because defensive end Calvin Taylor was waived and sent to the Reserve/Injured list with an injury settlement. With that explained, let’s take a look at some of the most likely cut candidates.

T.J. Carter, DE

Despite the injuries suffered by two other defensive linemen (the aforementioned Taylor and DeMarcus Christmas), T.J. Carter should be one of the first cuts made by the Steelers on Tuesday. In two games, Carter has taken only seven snaps each on defense and on special teams. He has been particularly absent from the stat line in both, recording only one assisted tackle. On an already crowded defensive line, Carter needs to be making more of an impact to stay on the roster. He has been absent from training camp reports, indicating he is not making an impact in practice either. With the third preseason game approaching, in which at least a few of the starters might see playing time, Carter would most likely not see the field, thus making his spot on the roster expendable.

Peter Guerriero, RB

Unfortunately, the Peter Guerriero Experience may only be in town for one week. The Steelers signed Guerriero last week after the Hall of Fame Game and he got into the contest against the Eagles late. He struggled a bit early but found his speed as he got more carries. He finished with seven carries for 20 yards and helped the Steelers close out the game late in the fourth quarter. However, with Benny Snell on the mend and several players locked in a heated battle for RB4, Guerriero’s presence on the team is no longer required.

Tyler Simmons, WR

Tyler Simmons encapsulates the fleeting nature of preseason success. Last week against the Cowboys, he reeled in his one target for a five-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. This past week against the Eagles, Simmons earned no targets. Furthermore, he is seeing very little duty on special teams as a gunner; furthermore, he is also missing out on punt returning opportunities to players like Isaiah McKoy and Matthew Sexton. With players like Sexton adding punt returning and McKoy providing more intrigue as a deep threat, Simmons seems to be on the outside looking in. If Tomlin and special teams coach Danny Smith want to see more of what McKoy and Sexton can do, removing Simmons from the equation is probably the solution.

Brandon Walton, OT

Of these predicted Steelers preseason cuts, this would be the one I feel most unsure of. Brandon Walton has played 53 snaps over the course of two games, all at left guard. He performed better this past week against the Eagles; however, his snaps came very late in the game and he was not asked to pass block nearly as much. The Steelers also brought in Malcolm Pridgeon, another player that will compete for playing time at guard. Walton could be on the chopping block this week mostly due to the starters seeing some playing time against the Lions. The coaching staff could view him as expendable depth, especially with other players displaying more positional versatility.

Jamar Watson, LB

Sometimes in life, you just get beat fair and square. That is what happened to Jamar Watson this preseason, with regards to Jamir Jones. Watson is an outside linebacker from Kentucky that the Steelers picked up as a UDFA. Unfortunately, he is simply being outperformed by Jamir Jones. While Watson has only recorded two pressures, Jones has made two tackles and pressured the QB six times, including four QB hits and one sack. Jones is also earning special teams snaps over Watson and performing well there. There was some consideration that Watson could play inside linebacker as well. But will the addition of Joe Schobert, pushing several players down the depth chart, Watson’s fate could be sealed.

Other Possible Steelers Preseason Cuts

Two more players I could seeing being released this week are tight end Marcus Baugh and linebacker/long snapper Christian Kuntz. Baugh has primarily played late in the last two games. But he has struggled as a receiver and as a blocker; he dropped his one target of the preseason and has been abysmal as a pass blocker (albeit in limited opportunities). The Steelers only have four other tight ends on the roster and some are still nursing injuries. But Baugh’s uninspiring performances so far could earn him his walking papers.

The final player that could be cut this week in Christian Kuntz. Kuntz has been able to stick on the offseason rosters due to the fact that he offers depth at two special teams positions: linebacker and long snapper. Obviously, if something were to happen to current long snapper Cameron Kanaday, Kuntz would be the first man up. But he does not offer much upside as a special teamer; additionally, the coaching staff might want to focus on developing chemistry between Kanaday and Pressley Harvin III as the potential starters at their respective positions. However, given the lack of long snappers with NFL experience, Kuntz could make it through the whole preseason as well.

Keep your eye out on Tuesday for the announcement of which players make the cut for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Additionally, check out Around the Block’s Pittsburgh Steelers’ podcast, Around the Burgh, hosted by myself and Shayne Kubas, for all your Steelers opinions, takes, and information.

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