New Orleans Saints

Andrus Peat trade makes sense for several teams

Trading Andrus Peat makes sense for the New Orleans Saints as well as for a number of teams who could use a proven guard even for a single season.

Free agency is largely over. The NFL Draft has come and gone. Even the Supplemental Draft is in the rearview mirror, yet there are still several teams seemingly content to enter the 2019 season with a questionable offensive line.

They say the game of football is won and lost in the trenches, which means some teams look as if they don’t care about winning at all. But the reality is that it’s hard to find a good lineman these days, and franchises have become very good at locking them up with lucrative extensions if they can find one.

All of this makes one particular player for the New Orleans Saints particularly interesting this time of year. Andrus Peat is a 25-year-old tackle/guard who was the Saints first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. This year, he’s due a cap hit of $9.6 million as he’s reached his fifth year option, and that’s a hefty price for the Saints to pay the worst member of their offensive line, especially since they’ve already invested so much along the front.

The Saints just drafted Erik McCoy in this year’s draft to take over the center position and they’ve got Larry Warford at right guard signed for big money through 2021. Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk anchor the bookends well, but the former is owed more than $15 and the latter should receive his own lucrative extension soon.

At some point soon, the Saints need to find a bargain to place along their line in order to properly balance funds and given that Peat is in his final year with the team, it makes sense to either extend him (more big money promised on this line) or trade him for draft assets.

Even after a year in which he was the fifth best lineman on his own team (and it was a down year marked by lesser performance and injuries including a broken hand), Peat is still a solid young guard with good experience who is well-coached and versatile/talented enough to immediately start for several teams. In addition, while he’s in his last year, a new team could work to sign him to an extension while bringing him in, which could mean a decent haul for the Saints.

Given that Michael Thomas wants to get paid (and others are also in line), the Saints would do well to create significant cap room with a move like trading Peat. And they can rely on the fact that reserves like Will Clapp or Cameron Tom or Nick Easton could step in and likely fill in just fine given the talent around them.

Here’s a rundown of teams that could be a potential trade fit for Peat given their needs and cap space.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals line was about as miserable as the others on this list last season, but they can at least point to injuries as part of the reason why they were so inept at protecting the quarterback (or moving the chains) in 2018.

Guard Justin Pugh was horrible before ending the year on Injured Reserve. Left tackle D.J. Humphries has tried (and failed) to live up to his first round billing. A.Q. Shipley missed all of last season with a torn ACL and will mix with Mason Cole for a starting spot still up for grabs. Gone from last year is Mike Iupati and Andre Smith—the latter such a poor right tackle that he was released midseason in November after being signed to start on the right side.

This offseason, Steve Keim (somehow still employed) brought in a new right side of the line in J.R. Sweezy at guard and Marcus Gilbert at right tackle. Pugh is being shifted left to make room for Sweezy for some reason (we’re pretty sure Seattle tasked the Party Planning Committee to celebrate his exit).

Gilbert, for his part, brings hope to the right side of the line after coming over in a trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Gilbert is an immediate upgrade, although he also comes with questions of availability, having missed 20 games over the last two seasons due to injuries and a P.E.D. suspension.

Here’s what’s frustrating about all of this: the Cardinals have very good reason to believe they’ve struck gold at the game’s most important position in Kyler Murray. Even early looks from training camp show that he can make throws only a handful of other NFL quarterbacks can, and the Cardinals should have been much smarter about protecting their investment.

Investing in a trade for Andrus Peat does not brighten the future of the franchise that is clearly still on the upswing from picking first overall in this year’s draft. However, Keim and company have to be very focused on making sure Murray stays healthy and that this line isn’t the cause of their prized possession taking hit after hit after hit.

Peat would immediately be the most talented player on this offensive line and would give them an anchor at left guard. From there, Pugh and Sweezy could battle it out at right guard and give the Cardinals some nice depth with fringe starters in whoever loses the center/guard competitions. Gilbert has one side locked down as well and the Cardinals would at least look average up front with Murray under center.

Houston Texans

Even some of the NFL’s more casual fans could likely identify the offensive line of the Houston Texans  as a weak spot. The headlines haven’t changed in a couple years despite the glaring need to protect a major investment and hope for future glory in Deshaun Watson.

Last year, the NFL in sacks allowed last year (62) and finished second in 2017 (54). Watson was the most pressured quarterback in the NFL last year as well, as the Texans allowed a league-worst 45% pressured rate. The potential for a high-octane offense is here with a quarterback like Watson and skill players like All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Keke Coutee, but they’ve got to buy more time up front.

The franchise might eventually look back on this offseason as the one that solved their woes, but that’s unlikely to happen anytime in the next few months. The Texans invested a first round (Tytus Howard) and second round pick (Max Scharping) in strengthening the line, but both players face a major leap to the pro level and questions about their experience to date.

Howard could be a new anchor at left tackle, but he’s jumping from Alabama State to the pros and it’s hard enough to find a pro-ready tackle from the highest-levels of college football. Scharping is a MAC product from Northern Illinois and comes with the ability to play left or right tackle as well as right guard, at least given his history. Both players could earn solid playing time by season’s end.

Even the team’s most “ready” addition, veteran Matt Kalil, is in bad shape. He’s still healing from a knee injury that cost him all of the 2018 season. He just turned 30, is coming off of an entire year missed, and the Panthers just ate $15 million in dead cap space just to no longer worry about him. To expect him to come in and anchor the left side seems a pipe dream for a GM unwilling or unable to secure a much better option.

Basically, the Texans return the bulk of last year’s line with the addition of Kalil on a prove-it deal and two linemen without an obvious home who need to be coached up. The future could be much brighter, but teams will still feast in Week 1 unless a move is made. Enter Andrus Peat.

Nick Martin and Zach Fulton should be the only starters entrenched in their spots (and even Fulton could be best as a spot starter along a stronger line), which means there’s enough room to also bring in a new left guard to anchor the line in 2019. Peat’s presence (and experience in front of Drew Brees) would yield significant dividends for a franchise that could relax considerably with much better options at bookend without also having to worry about left guard.

Los Angeles Chargers

Tom Telesco has done a helluva job building the Chargers roster front to back, a team with arguably fewer roster needs than any other NFL franchise. However, the offensive line for the team has been the weakest link for quite some time—even pre-dating Telesco—and the Chargers general manager hasn’t been able to solve the issue either.

In 2017, Telesco leaned heavily into the offensive interior to walk away with heralded prospects Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney in the second and third rounds respectively. The emphasis was clear but the execution has been lacking.

Lamp has struggled to stay healthy since joining the professional ranks, having missed his entire rookie season due to a torn ACL and last year he only appeared in two games. Feeney has been available and even looked like a decent performer in 2017, but last year, he regressed to the point that it might have been better for the team to have him on the shelf next to Lamp.

The Chargers are going into the season once again counting on Feeney (to turn the corner) and/or Lamp (to get healthy). Both are unproven performers however on a line with other pressing issues (we’re looking at you, right tackle) on a roster with Super Bowl hopes. The Chargers have enough talent to cover their concerns in the regular season, but the postseason is where such weaknesses are unmasked, and the Patriots neutralized the Chargers when it counted most—largely because they knew they could come right at these players.

If the Chargers really believe they’ve got at least one great Super Bowl run in them with Philip Rivers at the helm (and they should), it’d be worth paying the price to secure Peat away from New Orleans and plugging a troubled spot in time for camp.

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