Sean Payton knows Graham trade is tough on Brees

Sean Payton understands Drew Brees' pain in losing a target like Jimmy Graham.

Speaking for the first time since the New Orleans Saints shipped the tight end to Seattle for center Max Unger and a first-round pick, Payton told NBC Sports on Monday he gets that it's hard for a quarterback to lose such a valuable and familiar target.

"I think it's tough. Especially -- and Drew's been, shoot for nine years now, he's played with a lot of different receivers, a lot of different tight ends," Payton said via "And what's lost a little bit is there's an energy that's required when you're the quarterback and you're watching film with these players and working on certain routes. And so it's difficult.

"And yet, from a bigger picture standpoint, you're wanting to play better defense and reduce the amount of points you may need to score to win a game. So losing players like that ... those are always difficult. But they impact a quarterback, especially when it's a tight end like Jimmy Graham. And now it's our job as coaches to find additional targets. And we feel like we got one in (pass-catching running back) C.J. Spiller, who's a completely different position but nonetheless a playmaker when the ball's in his hands."

Payton reiterated that in order to get back assets to help in the running game and boost one of the NFL's most porous defenses the Saints had to give something up in return.

"It's really looking at, hey, where are those areas where we feel like we need to improve, where are those 'must' areas, and then where are the assets that we feel we can do that? Mickey and I discussed this trade for, shoot, a week leading up to it," Payton said. "And we really felt strongly it was gonna require the player, Max Unger, but also a first-round pick.

" ... So we gotta look at, 'How do we improve our defense, how do we improve certain weaknesses of our team?' You don't ever want to lose a player like Jimmy, and yet we feel like this gives us an opportunity to do that."

Everything we hear from Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis reaffirms the belief that the team's flurry of trades were not made in an effort to rebuild, but rather retool on the fly.

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