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Brees: Draft sent message that we believe in our skill position players

New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 30: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints warms up prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 30, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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Over the course of the offseason, the Saints said farewell to tight end Jimmy Graham, wide receiver Kenny Stills and running back Pierre Thomas.

They signed running back C.J. Spiller, but otherwise left the team’s skill positions untouched as they spent their nine draft picks on other positions. One of those picks was for quarterback Garrett Grayson, who won’t be playing at all if things go well for New Orleans but Drew Brees focused on the opportunities that await players like Nick Toon, Josh Hill and Seantavius Jones in the coming season.

“I think the message that was sent to our young skill position players is that we feel like we have the right tools in the building,” Brees said, via “Our young receivers have some great opportunities. The departure of Jimmy Graham, and [Darren] Sproles two years ago, and Pierre, these are all touches that have to go somewhere now. So we’re gonna have some young guys step up and contribute that haven’t had many opportunities in the past. Yet they’re gonna earn that right here throughout OTAs, minicamp, training camp. I’m excited to watch those guys develop. It’s been a fun offseason for me in that regard, starting to envision how it could all come together for some of those guys.”

The Saints also acquired center Max Unger in the Graham trade and drafted Andrus Peat in the first round in an attempt to upgrade the play on the offensive line, something that would make it easier for Spiller and Mark Ingram to balance out the offense with a strong rushing attack. That would make for a different offense than the one that led to otherworldly numbers for Brees in the past, but different won’t be bad if the Saints’ offseason bets pay off.