The New Orleans Saints are dismantling their team 12 months after going all-in

At this time last year the New Orleans Saints were busy giving Jairus Byrd, the No. 1 free agent on the market, $US54 million in a deal that took every salary cap accounting trick in the book to complete.

The move was a part of a series of moves that ruined their long-term cap health, forced them to get rid of some useful players, and left them thin at a number of positions.

Still, many people picked them to win the Super Bowl before the 2014 season.

They didn’t win the Super Bowl. They went 7-9 and missed the playoffs. Twelve months later, they’re blowing up the team that they went all-in on in 2014, while also spending money in some odd ways.

The moves they have made so far:

  • Traded Jimmy Graham and a 4th-round pick to Seattle for Max Unger and a 1st-round pick
  • Traded Ben Grubbs to Kansas City for a 5th-round pick
  • Traded Kenny Stills to Miami for a 3rd-round pick and Dannell Ellerbe
  • Cut Curtis Lofton
  • Cut Pierre Thomas
  • Signed Brandon Browner for $US7.5 million guaranteed
  • Signed C.J. Spiller

There’s a lot going on here. If Chip Kelly wasn’t doing whatever it is he’s doing to the Eagles, this would be the biggest story in the NFL.

On the one hand, they’re hoarding draft picks. They now have nine picks in the 2015 draft. This is a good thing. For years the Saints have been chasing free agents and burning through cap space. As a result, they have holes across the roster. They need all the draft picks they can get.

But they’re not in full rebuilding mode. They traded Stills — a solid young player who’s still on his rookie contract — for Ellerbe, who has a massive contract. They also signed Spiller, even though they just gave running back Mark Ingram a contract extension.

They have made moves to get themselves out of salary cap hell, only to throw themselves back into that hell by adding pricey veterans like Unger, Ellerbe, and Spiller. As much as their offseason is being referred to as a “firesale,” it’s clear that they’re still very much trying to win now. It makes some sense considering Drew Brees’ age, but if it doesn’t work out — and it’d take a monumental turnaround for it to work out — it will only delay the rebuilding process.

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