Sunday, April 27, 2003
Addition of Sullivan made Hand expendable
By Len Pasquarelli
It took a day for the ripple effect to impact veteran Norman Hand, but just more than 24 hours after New Orleans moved up in the first round to snatch Johnathan Sullivan on Saturday afternoon, the gambit was more than enough to move the eight-year defensive tackle off the Saints roster.The Saints, weary of Hand's perennial battle of the bulge and insistent that his inability to stop the run in 2002 was one of the primary causes of their defensive collapse, dealt him to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday for a sixth-round draft choice. New Orleans used the sixth-round choice, the 203rd selection overall, to take wide receiver Kareem Kelly of Southern California. And the Saints will use Sullivan, a University of Georgia standout, to supplant Hand in their lineup. "After we got Jonathan Sullivan on the first pick, it made one of (the team's veterans) the odd-man out," said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. "Ultimately we decided that, with the salary and the situation we had, that it would be good for Norman and our team if we moved him." The Saints surrendered two first-round draft choices on Saturday, dealing them to Arizona, to move up 11 spots on the draft board and grab Sullivan. The first-rounder will join Grady Jackson, another underachieving tackle who has battled weight problems throughout his career, in the lineup. Jackson has not been participating in the New Orleans conditioning program this offseason, and until he phoned head coach Jim Haslett on Sunday, the club had not heard from him. With both Jackson and Hand out of shape last season, the Saints struggled mightily to stop the run, and statistically ranked No. 19 in defense versus the rush. Hand is listed at 310 pounds, but the suspicion around the league was that he was more in the 360-pound range, and perhaps even more. There have been rumblings for weeks that the Saints would likely jettison one of their two starters. The deal for Sullivan, the sixth choice overall on Saturday, all but secured Hand's exit. The Saints began phoning some other teams on Saturday evening and finally found a buyer. Seattle must assume the final two seasons of Hand's contract and he has base salaries of $3.9 million for 2003 and $4.5 million for 2004. The Saints will realize a salary cap savings of about $2.725 million in the transaction. New Orleans coaches and team officials feel that, even with the departure of Hand, they still possess sufficient defensive tackle depth. "There's a reason we drafted (Sullivan) so high," said Haslett, who many observers felt would choose a cornerback in the first round. "I think that he has first-round talent, starting talent." In eight seasons, Hand, 30, has played with Miami (1995-96), San Diego (1997-99) and New Orleans (2000-2002). He signed with the Saints in 2000 after the Chargers rescinded the "franchise" designation from him. He has played in 98 games and started 72 times. Hand has 257 tackles, 20½ sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and 15 pass deflections for his career. Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.