The New Orleans Saints have been one of the NFL’s premier franchises since quarterback Drew Brees arrived in 2006, but before that, the team struggled mightily.
Still, it is worth noting that they have made some excellent trades over the years. With that said, we take a look at the team’s five best trades in its history.
5. Jim Everett, 1994
The third overall pick in 1986, Jim Everett spent eight years with the Los Angeles Rams and led his team to three playoff appearances — all while making one Pro Bowl.
He went 46-59 as a starter, throwing for 23,758 yards, 142 touchdowns and 123 interceptions. During the 1993 season, Everett was replaced as the starter and was eventually traded the next offseason to the Saints, who gave up a 1995 seventh-rounder.
In three seasons with New Orleans, Everett threw for 10,622 yards, 60 TDs, and 48 picks while winning 17 in his 47 starts. Everett didn’t have a ton of talent around him to work with, but he gave the Saints some solid QB play during his time. That’s an excellent return for such a low-value pick.
Everett was a solid player throughout his career, but he is better known for the infamous (and hilarious) altercation with Jim Rome on live television.
4. Max Unger, 2015
For a time, Jimmy Graham was one of the most dominant red zone threats in the NFL. The collegiate basketball player was a third-round pick by the Saints in 2010, and he made the Pro Bowl in his second season after catching 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In five years with the Saints, Graham had 386 catches for 4,752 yards and 51 touchdowns. Prior to the 2014 campaign, New Orleans signed Graham to a four-year, $40 million contract extension — the richest deal in league history for a tight end at the time.
Less than a year later, however, the Saints shocked the NFL world by sending Graham to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for center Max Unger and a 2015 first-round pick. Graham made two Pro Bowls in three seasons with Seattle, but he was never quite as good as he was with the Saints. He spent 2018 and 2019 with the Green Bay Packers before landing with the Chicago Bears.
Meanwhile, Unger continued to play at a high level with New Orleans, ranking as one of the league’s best centers. He retired after the 2018 season.
The first-round pick from the Graham trade was spent on linebacker Stephone Anthony, who had a very good rookie season but lasted just one more year before being cut. Even though the pick wasn’t used very well, the trade itself was still excellent, as the Saints added a great offensive lineman without missing a beat in their passing game.
3. Jim Dombrowski and Pat Swilling, 1986
The Saints held the fourth overall selection in the 1986 NFL Draft, but they traded down two spots with the Indianapolis Colts for sixth and and 60th overall picks. The Colts took defensive end Jon Hand, who put together a decent career, totaling 35.5 sacks over nine seasons.
The Saints clearly got the better end of this deal, though. With the sixth pick, they chose offensive lineman Jim Dombrowski, who never made a Pro Bowl but still provided solid pass protection at both guard and tackle for 11 seasons.
Meanwhile, Pat Swilling was the real prize of the deal. He played seven years in New Orleans, making four Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams. He was a key member of the Saints “Dome Patrol” linebacking corps along with Sam Mills, Rickey Jackson and Vaughan Johnson. In 1992, all four players were selected to the Pro Bowl — a feat that will likely never be matched.
Swilling retired having collected 107.5 sacks throughout his career, and while he isn’t a Hall of Famer, he’s a Saints legend nonetheless. This won’t be his only appearance on this list.
2. Ryan Ramczyk, 2017
Wide receiver Brandin Cooks was the 20th overall pick in 2014 by the Saints, and he has since been traded for a first-round pick two separate times. The first came in 2017 when New Orleans sent Cooks and a fourth-rounder to the New England Patriots for a first and third-round pick. This was also the draft that the team moved up for running back Alvin Kamara (a deal that just missed landing on this list).
The third-rounder was spent on Trey Hendrickson, who has been a solid rotational player when healthy. With their extra first-rounder, New Orleans chose Wisconsin right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who was excellent as a rookie and has only gotten better since. He is rivaled by only Lane Johnson and Mitchell Schwartz as the best RT in the game today.
Cooks is a good player, but the Saints have managed to more than replace his production. At the same time, Ramczyk has provided Drew Brees with top-tier protection and has proved himself to be more valuable than Cooks was.
1. Willie Roaf and Lorenzo Neal, 1993
Pat Swillling spent the vast majority of his career in New Orleans, but not all of it. Following the 1992 campaign, he was dealt to the Detroit Lions for the eighth and 89th picks in the 1993 draft.
At No.8, the Saints selected Hall of Fame tackle Willie Roaf. He spent his rookie year at RT before moving to the left side for the rest of his career. He played nine seasons in New Orleans, making seven consecutive Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams. He was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2002, making four Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams in his four years with Kansas City.
Roaf had to wait an extra year, but he was eventually inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. He is considered to be one of the greatest left tackles in NFL history.
With their extra fourth-round pick, the Saints chose fullback Lorenzo Neal, perhaps the greatest ever at his position. Neal played four years for New Orleans before moving on to the New York Jets. He would go on to also play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Ravens.
Neal made four Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams throughout his 16-year career. The Saints also found excellent kick returner Tyrone Hughes in that 1993 Draft, but even if they hadn’t, the class would have been a resounding success thanks to the best trade in franchise history.