The New Orleans Saints and a surplus of defensive talent might seem like the NFL’s version of an oxymoron, but that is what’s being peddled on the Bayou by those in the know.
CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora first reported that the Saints believe they have an excess of solid pieces on the back end of their defense and would be willing to part with former first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro under the right circumstances.
A second separate NFL source confirmed to FanRag Sports that is indeed the thinking in New Orleans. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen would be very confident in moving forward with a pair of recent second-round picks, Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams, as well as veteran Rafael Bush.
A few dynamics are fueling this development. One is certainly a common theme in life: follow the money.
Kenny Vaccaro is making $5.7 million this season and is scheduled to be a free agent in March. The likelihood that the Saints would offer a lucrative extension after investing premium picks at his position over the last two years is slim, especially when factoring in the second part of this… performance.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Vaccaro has generally been an oasis on a bad defense in recent years, grading out as above average for his position. That didn’t continue against the Minnesota Vikings, however. He was one of the worst pass-coverage safeties in Week 1, ranking at No. 72 of 73, ahead of only Tennessee’s Johnathan Cyprien.
With Sam Bradford feeling comfortable in the pocket and showing his awe-inspiring accuracy to detailed route runners Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, the Saints’ back end was holding on for dear life in Minneapolis. It seems Vaccaro is being used as the scapegoat.
In the spread-and-shred world of the 2017 NFL, having the 220-pound intimidator on the back end just isn’t as important as it once was… unless he can take on a hybrid rover role, serving as part-linebacker and part-safety depending on the need of the defense on a particular play.
Allen doesn’t see that in Vaccaro and wants to move to better coverage options as soon as possible.
The thought is to get something for Vaccaro in the form of a future draft pick and fast forward to the inevitability of the 2018 plan a little sooner than expected.
For now Vaccaro remains a starter who played all 65 defensive snaps in the Saints’ loss to the Vikings, an endgame which accomplished two goals — the better player remains on the field in the short term (Vaccaro will not play that poorly each week), which enables him to audition for other teams clued in that’s he’s available, setting the stage for a deal the Saints can accept.
While late to the dance, more and more NFL organizations are taking on the MLB- or NBA-inspired mindset that getting a future asset in advance of an inevitable divorce is the right way to go.
From New Orleans’ standpoint, this plan isn’t going sideways. Vaccaro will ultimately want to continue his career as a starter in a different city with a big-money deal, so the carrot will continue to dangle.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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