Dead Money Mickey – Jeff Ireland Saved Mickey Loomis From Disaster
Ahead of the 2017 season, I was in the camp to blow the Saints roster up. I found it absurd a team with a historically great QB couldn’t win. I won’t dive into the excuses I hear that I have debunked in multiple columns over the years.
One of the big failures during that run of mediocrity was GM Mickey Loomis aka Magic Mickey. There was a time where Mickey Loomis was an elite GM in the NFL. Those days are long gone.
People continue to give credit to GM Mickey Loomis for these moves and there is an unsung hero in the Saints front office among the fans…
I put his name in bold big letters because I want people to remember the name…Jeff Ireland.
The Saints have been damn good in the draft and free agency since making Jeff Ireland Assistant GM and Scouting Director. Honestly, it bothers me that Mickey Loomis gets so much credit. I am not sure Magic Mickey still has a job if it wasn’t for Jeff Ireland.
Jeff Ireland came to the Saints in January 2015. All it took was one year to turn a dumpster fire around. I understand you’re probably asking the question of how on Earth could I call a 7-9 team a dumpster fire? Honestly, that is a fair question. On the surface, 7-9 isn’t by any stretch a dumpster fire.
As I said earlier, they have always had Drew Brees. The quarterback position moves the needle in terms of wins more than anything, especially in today’s NFL. Yet, they could not win. I think it is just as much on Payton as it is Loomis.
I have written enough about my thoughts on the Saints willingness to arrogantly go pass heavy when everything since 2006 says they shouldn’t.
Those two together have 8 (3 with Ireland) winning seasons, 6 losing seasons (1 with Ireland) and the lone 8-8 season. I am excluding 2012 from the equation for Bountygate since Payton was not coaching. Remember, that is 7 non winning seasons with Drew Brees as your QB.
Here’s a list of great to elite QBs since 2006 who have less losing seasons COMBINED.
- Tom Brady
- Peyton Manning
- Russell Wilson
- Aaron Rodgers
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Andrew Luck
Those six QBs have a combined four losing or .500 seasons since 2006. If you factor in the injuries for some of them and their record before the injuries, that number only jumps to six. All those guys win substantially more than lose. With Brees and the Saints, it has been basically a 50/50 shot.
*Insert comment about defense or whatever the excuses*
See above statement about multiple columns debunking that bullshit.
The reason I use that as a baseline is because when you have a top tier QB, let alone a top QB ever, you should not be losing as much as they have. Even in a historical context, John Elway, Joe Montana and Brett Favre do not have as many losing or .500 seasons as Brees. Out of all the QBs mentioned, Favre has the most with 4.
Mickey Loomis Draft Capital
Getting back to Mickey Loomis. The wheels started falling off on him shortly after the Super Bowl. Thanks to some great picks from 2004-2008, the Saints had enough to withstand some success the next few seasons (through 2011). The Saints went 7-9 without Payton and then back to the postseason in 2013. Let the vicious cycle begin.
Part of that equation for Loomis comes from the whiff on draft picks. Let’s take a look at this class by class…
- 2010 Draft Class
1st – Patrick Robinson*
2nd – Charles Brown
3rd – Jimmy Graham*
4th – Al Woods
5th – Matt Tennant
7th – Sean Canfield
The Saints ended up bringing Patrick Robinson back after finding success elsewhere. He had his moments with the Saints, but certainly not enough to quantify his value as a first rounder even at 32nd. Jimmy Graham was obviously a complete game changer for the Saints offensively for several years before contract disputes derailed his career in New Orleans. He was eventually traded to the Seahawks for Max Unger and a 1st. I love Jimmy more than most, but they would have been dead between the ears to not strike that deal.
- 2011 Draft Class
1st – Cameron Jordan*
1st – Mark Ingram*
3rd – Martez Wilson
3rd – Johnny Patrick
7th – Greg Romeus
7th – Nate Bussey
Cam and Ingram both serve / served as locker room leaders and easily go down as two of the best players during the Sean Payton era and two of the best in Saints history. Despite only hitting on two of the six picks, they absolutely fucking nailed those two. So we can ignore the four cast offs and call this a great draft.
- 2012 Draft Class
3rd – Akiem Hicks*
4th – Nick Toon
5th – Corey White
6th – Andrew Tiller
7th – Marcel Jones
They had their second stripped for Bountygate. Because of the trade up for Ingram, they didn’t have a first. This class is miserable. Hicks was another shining example of finding great success elsewhere as he is now a cornerstone piece of the Bears gritty defense. He was productive in New Orleans and a starter, but a mediocre one. Since he was taken in the third, we can call that a hit.
- 2013 Draft Class
1st – Kenny Vaccaro*
3rd – Terron Armstead*
3rd – John Jenkins
5th – Kenny Stills*
6th – Rufus Johnson
They knocked it out the part with Armstead despite the injuries. When he’s healthy, they have nothing to worry about at left tackle. Vaccaro and Stills both turned out to be productive, even with Stills short stint with the Saints. Jenkins played some productive minutes as a rotational tackle, but nothing special.
- 2014 Draft Class
1st – Brandin Cooks*
2nd – Stanley Jean Baptiste
4th – Khairi Fortt
5th – Vinnie Sunseri
5th – Ronald Powell
6th – Tavon Rooks
Cooks was worth what the Saints got from him as a first rounder. However, I was happy when they traded him because fuck the contract he got. They made the right call. He was the only part of this draft class worth noting.
In the five year fall from grace under Loomis, the Saints landed at least decent production from 9 of the 28 selections. Even with the two 2nds back for Bountygate, the Saints would have averaged just six picks per year.
When you look across the league at some of the more stable organizations (ironically those with high end QBs), they have substantially more picks over that window. For example, the Seahawks had 48 picks, Patriots had 44 picks and Packers had 45 picks.
At the end of the day, no one knows how a career will unfold so the more picks, the better your chances of landing quality guys. Case in point, the Packers, by the same standard of production, landed on 18 of those picks. The Seahawks hit on 17. The Patriots hit on 13.
Magic Mickey Loses His Contract “Magic”
Call it bad luck. Call it hindsight. Call it whatever you want. The Saints carried $40 million in DEAD MONEY in one season because of the number of bad contracts they handed out. At the time, that number was $12 million greater than the next closest team and four times the NFL average. The season prior was $30 million.
Loomis got into the habit after the Super Bowl of giving guys lucrative signing bonuses, finding loopholes like “void years” which bit him in the ass as far as the cap goes. In the simplest terms, it was credit being dealt out like hot cakes. “I’ll just stick it on the credit card and pay later.” They did pay later, with cap hell and losses.
The worst part of it all, they dished out these contracts for guys who never made a substantial impact. So when you pare that with the number of rookies cut with time left on the deal, it’s a real bad look for the GM.
- Brandon Browner
3 years and $15 million, he was cut after an abysmal first year where he couldn’t keep his hands off receivers leading the league Pass Interference penalties. He’s also in jail for being a piece of shit. After being murdered on the field, he thought it would be ok to attempt to murder someone else. Fuck that guy.
- CJ Spiller
He signed for 4 years and $16 million after his rookie deal expired with the Bills. He had one real productive season in Buffalo. He should have never received anywhere near that deal.
- Junior Galette
The signed extended him to a 4-year $41.5 million. Shortly after, he was kicked off the team after a video surfaced of him hitting a woman with a belt. This one is just bad luck for Loomis but still counts. Also fuck Junior Galette too.
- Jarius Byrd
The mecca of it all. They Saints needed a safety to replace Malcolm Jenkins so they signed Byrd for 6 years and $56 million. They paid him for three interceptions in three seasons. He was cut after that.
- Paul Kruger & Nick Fairly Cap Hit
Although it was only 2.7 million. The hit happened in 2017 after both guys were no longer on the team. To be fair, Fairley had to retire for a heart condition. He retired as a productive DT. Kruger was paid well beyond his worth.
- Coby Fleener
Guy couldn’t be productive with his college QB named Andrew Luck, why on earth would that change now? They signed him to a 5 year, $36 million and he was cut after two seasons.
Saints Bring In Jeff Ireland
Since the Saints brought in Ireland, the draft has been more plentiful and successful. The Saints have stopped their ludicrous spending on free agents. They have built the current roster the way successful rosters are built, the NFL draft.
- 2015 Draft Class
1st – Andrus Peat*
1st – Stephone Anthony
2nd – Hau’oli Kikaha
3rd – Garrett Grayson
3rd – PJ Williams*
5th – Davis Tull
5th – Tyeler Davison*
5th – Damian Swann
7th – Marcus Murphy
They just re-signed Peat who has been a productive starter when healthy. Anthony had a decent first year but diminished. PJ Williams has seen significant playing time since joining. Davison saw significant time as a rotational player on the defensive line before hitting free agency and signing with Atlanta.
- 2016 Draft Class
1st – Sheldon Rankins*
2nd – Michael Thomas*
2nd – Vonn Bell*
5th – David Onyemata*
7th – Daniel Lasco
Rankins is a stud when healthy. Can’t guard Mike. Bell was a key contributor for turnovers and a formidable safety. Onyemata just re-signed for 9 mil per year and is as reliable as they come.
- 2017 Draft Class
1st – Marshon Lattimore*
1st – Ryan Ramczyk*
2nd – Marcus Williams*
3rd – Alvin Kamara*
3rd – Alex Anzalone*
3rd – Trey Hendrickson*
6th – Al-Quadin Muhammad
Five of them are starters who are not in any jeopardy of losing their jobs. One of which has injury issues (Anzalone). The other four are likely getting massive pay days. Hendrickson is a great rotational guy on the defensive line.
- 2018 Draft Class
1st – Marcus Davenport*
3rd – Tre’quan Smith*
4th – Rick Leonard
5th – Natrell Jamerson
6th – Kamrin Moore
6th – Boston Scott
7th – Will Clapp
Not a very good class. I am hesitant to say they hit on the first two but I will. Davenport has been a rotational piece who has 10 sacks in two years. You’re feeling much better about him if he was drafted in the 4th or 5th. Tre’quan gets the nod by default because the Saints have been thin at receiver.
- 2019 Draft Class
2nd – Erik McCoy*
4th – Chauncey Gardner-Johnson*
6th – Saquon Hampton
7th – Alize Mack
7th – Kaden Elliss
You got two very productive starters with your first two on a year with limited picks due to the Saints going all in to win now with Brees.
The Saints have now landed 17 picks in the last five year span on the 33 selections they have had. Not only did they land, they landed multiple centerpieces for the team.
Not only have the Saints been significantly better at drafting, they have been significantly better not signing bad contracts in recent years. In 2015, they signed Browner and Spiller. In 2016, they inked Fleener. I am not sure whether it was an aberration for Ireland or he didn’t have a ton of say at the time. Those two deals smell like Loomis. However, I can’t be certain.
That being said, let’s look at some of the notable free agents they have brought in since excluding undrafted Free Agents like Taysom Hill.
- Ted Ginn – 3 year, $11 million
- Craig Robertson – 3 year, $5 million (re-signed after first deal for 2 years and $4.1 million)
- AJ Klein – 3 year, $15 million
- Larry Warford – 4 year, $34 million
- Manti Teo – 1 year, $805,000
- Teddy Bridgewater – 1 year, $7.25 million
- Cameron Meredith – 2 year, $9.6 million
- Deamario Davis – 3 year, $24 million
- Alex Okafor – 2 year, $5.6 million
- Patrick Robinson – 4 year, $20 million (restructured this off season)
- Latavius Murray – 4 year, $14.4 million
- Jared Cook – 2 year, $15.5 million
Most of the guys listed played out their contracts or are still playing out those contracts. As it stands now, the Saints only have $6.2 million in dead money this season. Last year (2019), they had $4.2 million in dead money. Those two totals combined don’t equal what the dead money was in 2018 with over $12 million in dead money (fourth most in the league), thanks to the amount of bad contracts.
When you compile the amount of bad contracts and the amount rookies who were cut prematurely, Mickey Loomis created a massive problem with the Saints budget. It is a problem that took five years to overturn and right the ship. Now life for them doesn’t look so bleak after Brees depending on how they approach some of the big re-signs coming up like Ramczyk, Kamara, Williams and Lattimore.
While people keep giving credit to Mickey Loomis on the last few offseasons, this probably has more to do with Jeff Ireland, Assistant GM and Scouting Coordinator. Again, Jeff Ireland.