Tennessee Titans potential trade partners: New Orleans Saints

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Drew Brees (l) and Max Unger of the New Orleans Saints during the NFL game between the Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints at Wembley Stadium on October 1, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Drew Brees (l) and Max Unger of the New Orleans Saints during the NFL game between the Miami Dolphins and the New Orleans Saints at Wembley Stadium on October 1, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images) /

Could a potential trade be in the works between the Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints?

I am a big conspiracy theorist when it comes to football, and when I see potential threads between the Tennessee Titans and another team I can’t help but share my thoughts.

It sort of went under the radar for how big of a deal it was, but Max Unger retired from football today. Between his time with the New Orleans Saints and the Seattle Seahawks he was one of the best centers of the last decade.

This is a late retirement and it leaves the Saints in a bad position. The top free agent centers are off the board including maybe the best center going to division rival Carolina.

So, what are they going to do? I mean, during the draft last year the Saints thought they were so close to a Super Bowl that they traded away their 2019 1st round pick to move up and grab Marcus Davenport.

That is important for two reasons.

1. The New Orleans Saints are clearly committed to a “win now” mode with Drew Brees getting older.

2. They aren’t going to have a pick until 62! Well out of the range of being able to draft a starting caliber center in this class that probably only has two names that you would feel comfortable starting in 2019.

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So what are they going to do about it?

The only real free agency option they have is to call up John Sullivan who will be 34 when the season starts and who was recently cut by the LA Rams and passed over in free agency.

While Sullivan is very well respected, he is going to be on his third team in four years, and it feels like he is probably someone you would want coming off the bench not someone you need to start for 16+ games.

That isn’t where you want to be if you are the Saints, so what is the other option?

If I were Jon Robinson I would call the Mickey Loomis and make a trade happen.

Why would the Tennessee Titans trade Ben Jones?

The Tennessee Titans have Ben Jones for one more year, but honestly he has had a rough two year stretch in Nashville. While he is a great locker room guy and probably a solid fit in something outside of a zone scheme, he has had some trouble in this new offense.

The Titans have already scrapped two of the three starters on the interior offensive line this past season. It wouldn’t surprise me if they completely cleaned it out.

I thought it was a little strange that when the Jon Robinson was talking about potential replacements at right guard for Josh Kline, that he didn’t bring up Ben Jones. Jones is the presumed starter at center, but I think the expectation is that he and Corey Levin will battle it out for the job in training camp.

With Ben Jones in the last year of his deal, this is a trade that could be made with no long term commitment for the New Orleans Saints so they could draft a developmental center later in the draft or they could just plan on landing a player like Rodney Hudson, Mike Pouncey or even a Ryan Kelly in free agency next year.

What are the terms?

This is always the difficult part. Who could have predicted that the Steelers would trade Antonio Brown for a 3rd and a 5th, and who could have figured that a 1st and a 3rd would have been enough for Odell Beckham?

Making this even harder is that the New Orleans Saints only have one pick in the top 150! With only six picks total and half of those being after pick 200, the Saints really aren’t in a position to give up draft picks.

If I had to guess a future pick, I would guess that the sweet spot would be the Saints 2020 4th round pick.

That would give the Titans a pick in every round next year after moving their future 4th rounder in a deal to land Ryan Tannehill.

However, with their draft issues could the Titans work something else out? Could the Titans potentially give up a pick to get a player that really helps them?

Looking at the roster, these are the players that I think you could land in a trade:

WR Tre’Quan Smith

-This is the homerun trade I would love to see. The Saints are already pretty loaded at WR and with Jared Cook likely coming in they have enough pass catching talent to still produce another 5,000 season from Drew Brees. But, if he is on his back because the backup center can’t beat the defensive tackles in that division then he won’t hit that mark.

The rest of the players on this list are in the final year of their deals, but this is the only trade that helps the Titans short and long term, while only helping the Saints in the short term.

WR Ted Ginn

-Ginn has been criticized for much of his career as a bust, but if you really look at his body of work you will see a solid WR2 that brings an legitimate deep threat to an offense. Again, the Saints are deep at WR and this is a fairly deep class if they want to add one in the 2nd round so giving up one of compliments to Michael Thomas makes sense.

DT Sheldon Rankins

-Last year everything clicked for Rankins and he finally looked like the dominant defensive tackle that we all thought he could be coming out. And then, he tore his Achilles in the playoffs. This injury puts his training camp in doubt and it means that a team like the Saints who need to win now have a question mark for a player in a contract year.

Again, this is another stacked position for the Saints and a deep position in the draft. Would New Orleans take a guarantee at center and a question mark at rotational DT?

DT David Onyemata

-Maybe a name you haven’t heard of but an effective player all the same. Onyemata is a really solid defensive lineman that is also entering a contract year. If the Saints wanted to move a starter on DL for a starter at center it makes sense to me.

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What do the Titans get out of this?

The Titans will probably see Ben Jones walk this next offseason and they could already be considering his replacement. A common theme in mock drafts is to have them end up with Garrett Bradbury and I completely understand that.

He is an elite athlete and is one of the rare centers that looks like he could substantially change an offense. This would give the Titans the freedom to go for him or attempt to move back a little and acquire the other exceptionally talented center in this draft Erik McCoy.

Even if they don’t draft a center in the first they have Corey Levin who looked very solid when asked to play center last year.

So, the Titans could potentially use this trade to land a pick and/or a player that fills a need while also getting younger, cheaper and probably better at the center position

This is a win-win for the Titans and a win-win for the Saints who would give up a future Day 3 pick and a backup/rotational player that they didn’t really need in exchange for a starting center, something they don’t have.