April 24, 2005

Mickey Loomis Interview Transcript: Draft wrapup Q&A with Saints general manager

Opening Statement: "We're just like the other 31 teams in the NFL: We're really happy about our draft. One of the things we wanted to do was get high-character, high-quality guys, and we did that. I know there are some questions about Adrian McPherson, but we did a lot of background work on him, we don't expect any issues, in fact, we expect the opposite. He's going to go out of his way to do the right thing, and anyone who has contact with him is going to like this kid."

Q: What was your gameplan going into the draft?

A: "I think we were really successful with the first pick. Jammal was a guy we targeted early, I think most people expected us to go in another direction, though there was some talk about us picking him. I would have preferred not to have to give up something to move up, but we thought there was a chance someone might come in from behind us and take him right before we picked, and we didn't want to risk that in the end. We had other options, we had other guys we might have taken, but we felt like Jammal was the best pick for us, for the immediate impact. In the second round we were really happy with Josh. There were some other guys we might have taken that ended up getting drafted in the first round. From the third round on, with every pick we got a guy who we thought would have gone in an earlier round, so that's good."

Q: The conventional wisdom might have been you would pick a lot of defensive players, but that was not the case...

A: "I agree...the ranking from last year speaks for itself. But there are other factors. We did feel like the defense played better at the end of the season, and we have some young guys we feel good about."

Q: It has been suggested that this wasn't a deep draft. Do you feel the same?

A: "I don't know. Time will tell, we kind of felt like it was a good middle part of the draft, but the top and bottom ends may not as been as strong as other years. But that is hard to gauge, ultimately that will be determined by the performance of the players who were picked."

Q: Do you have an update on Darren Howard? Will he be on the roster?

A: "I don't know that I can answer all those questions, but I've had every expectation for a little while now that Darren will be on our team this year. And we're really happy about it. I've had a lot of reservations on whether it was good in the long-run and short-run about moving Darren, and whether that would ultimately be good for our team. We'll see in the long run, I can't answer with absolute certainty."

Q: Is Courtney Watson going to be your starter at middle linebacker? Will you be looking to sign free agents on defense or at linebacker?

A: "Absolutely, yes, we expect Watson to be the starter. On the free agents, let me say this: If there is a player out there or who comes available that we think will improve our group, we'll try to get them. Right now, I don't know if there is anyone out there who can improve our group. We have a lot of young guys with varying levels of experience, we don't have that one that is a proven difference-maker, but we do have a lot of opportunities. On the other hand, we have a strong defensive line, and we have a good group of corners, which should help the linebackers."

Q: How many rookie free agents will you sign?

A: "We look to sign roughly about eight. They'll come right off our board. Identification of those guys is pretty easy, but getting them signed is another matter. There is a lot of competition for those players, there will be five or six teams that want them just like we do. In signing rookie free agents, it's also a matter of numbers for training camp. There will be a couple of offensive lineman, a defensive lineman, a couple of corners...I can't remember everywhere we're trying to go position-wise off the top of my head."

Q: Can you take a harder line on negotiations if the draft wasn't as deep this year?

A: "We always talk about that as a league, enough for the rookies, the contracts are getting too high, we need to hold the line. You have that feeling every year, but that's not the way the system works. Regardless of what has transpired, you are going to get that slot for each spot. Until the system changes, that's the way it is. A fixed amount of money goes to each slot."

Q: Some teams didn't have McPherson on their list because of his past transgressions. What gave you confidence to select him?

A: "We talked to a lot of people about Adrian, including a couple of players on our roster who were his teammates, his parents, coaches, friends...amongst a lot of other people. We did all the investigative work about what transpired in the incidents he has had. Clearly, he made some mistakes, he has been accountable for them, he hasn't blamed anyone, and by words and deeds he has pledged not to let them happen again. All of those factors led us to take this kid in the fifth round. There are some red flags there, we are aware of them, but we are up there in the fifth round swinging for the home run. We think the potential reward justifies the risk. We think we have good support for him here with out group. We don't expect to have him step in here and start playing right away. But he can come in here and get some experience and he could be something special. We are very comfortable with Aaron Brooks, and Todd Bouman and Kliff Kingsbury. Adrian is a developmental project."

Q: Do you think there will be anyone out there after June 1 that you would be interested in?

A: "I would say this: Before the draft, no, we don't have any expectations about veterans after June 1 that can significantly help us. This next week or so we'll revisit that issue, if a team has drafted someone that can make someone else available. Now that the draft is completed, that will be something we revisit."

Q: Did you go into the draft expecting to get McPherson?

A: "We went into this draft thinking we'd like to have this kid. Someone is always the standard-bearer for every player. I would say we were all on board with Adrian. Rick was the standard-bearer for Adrian, yes. But we were all on board. Let's give our scouts a lot of credit on the second day. Our coaches spend a lot of time on our first-day players, but it's really our scouting staff that is finding the second-day guys, doing the work. They are usually the standard-bearers for the second-day guys."

Q: Was there a group of people or someone that had to be convinced to select him?

A: "No, I wouldn't say that at all. Everyone recognizes this kid has a lot of talent. We have people who like other players, too. I wouldn't say anyone needed to be sold on picking him."

Q: Do you have enough cap room to do the long-term deals you are hoping to finish before the season?

A: "We have a little bit of work to do. It's not cut and dried. Darren Howard's contract makes that a little more complicated. We've always had a plan if he was on the team at his current contract and if not. We're prepared for it. Today, we're roughly two million under the cap. But today doesn't mean a lot. We have draft picks to sign, some other deals to re-work. We have Joe Horn on the horizon, Deuce McAllister, LeCharles Bentley...We have some work to do. But let me say this, too: I'm not concerned about it, I feel good about it. We can handle it without jeopardizing our future."

Q: Walk us through the trade on the first day.

A: We had talked to Houston a few days ago, about the possibility of bumping up a few spots. We talked a couple of times early in the draft, they were aware. When it came time for them to pick, they felt good about sliding back a little bit, at that point, I thought it was a good decision to move forward."

Q: Was there much debate about compensation?

A: "There always is. Debate is a general word. The value chart is a nice guideline. Different teams have different value charts, not everyone's point spread is the same. It's a guideline. The value is whatever you can get, whatever the market is, how comfortable the other team is going forward or back. Obviously, Houston felt good about coming back three spots for the price we gave them. We felt good about moving forward. I think it was a good deal for us, and also a good deal for them. They'll be happy to have that pick next year in the third round."

Q: Anything to report on the contract extension for Coach Haslett?

A: "There's nothing new, we pretty much tabled that until we got by the draft period and we got some of these other things out of the way."

Q: Did you expect more deals on the first day of the draft?

A: I was surprised, I expected six, seven, eight deals even. I was really surprised there weren't some deals up at the top. I don't know how to explain that, because I think there were a lot of guys specifically targeted. We had four or five opportunities to move back, teams with specific players in mind. It was early in the draft. Definitely there were a lot of teams trying to move, but it didn't happen. I do think a couple of teams got the guy they wanted without having to move. And sometimes not doing a deal works out in your best interest, too."

Q: What teams filled their needs best?

A: "Often times what we think a team's needs are and what they think they are can be different. We'll revisit that in the next couple of days. Off the cuff, I think Minnesota had a great offseason, I think everyone recognizes that. Other than that, nothing comes to mind immediately."

Q: Was your fourth-round pick, Chase Lyman, a risk/reward pick?

A: "Since I've been in the league, that has always been our philosophy. On that second day, you want to get guys who have a chance to be really good players. It's a little higher risk, a little higher reward. You'll miss, but occasionally you will get a guy who ends up being really good player. Chase Lyman is that kind of guy. He's had a lot of injury issues, but he's a great kid, a hard-working kid, all the attributes you want, when he's healthy he is a good player, it just remains to see if he can stay healthy. Really, it's the same kind of pick we made a couple of years ago with Cie Grant, and he hasn't been able to stay healthy yet. Cie still has an opportunity here, but at some point you have to stay healthy enough to stay on the field."

Q: Can Adrian McPherson be the quarterback of future?

A: "I don't think we want to put that label on him yet. There's just not enough to go on. He has a lot of physical ability, great athletic ability. And we have what we think is really good coaching in Mike Sheppard and Turk Schoenert, they know how to develop quarterbacks. We are giving them a piece of clay to work on, see if they can mold him into something good for us. Aaron is our quarterback of the future, as far as I'm concerned. If we can supplement that with our other guys, and now another young guy to develop - and I don't want to rule out Kliff, he's done a really good job of working hard and developing over the last year. It will be a good competition, and we'll see where it ends up."

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