I don’t know if any team has had more tough breaks, disappointments, and bad luck than the Saints the past few years. From a missed pass interference call to the Minneapolis Miracle, when the stakes are the highest, it just never seems to work out for the Saints. After the loss to the Buccaneers Sunday night, with what could have been Drew Brees’ last game, the future is unknown in New Orleans.
For 15 years, the Saints never had to worry about who would be quarterbacking the team. Whether or not Drew Brees decides to retire, what he did in New Orleans was amazing. He is a Super Bowl Champion and Game MVP. Currently, he’s the NFL’s all-time passing leader. In addition, he has second most passing TDs ever. If that weren’t enough, he has 13 pro bowls and five All Pros. If Drew Brees decides it’s time to move on from football, there are some enormous shoes to fill.
Saints’ Internal Candidate: Taysom Hill
If there is no more Drew Brees, the first question is, who will play quarterback? When Brees went down early in the season, Taysom Hill took care of the quarterbacking. He went 3-1 as a starter and finished with a completion percentage of about 70 percent. Considering he only has four career starts, it’s hard to say how good he can be. Hill is a very different player than Drew Brees. He often uses his legs and athleticism to make plays. Brees, on the other hand, is a traditional pocket passer.
Hill was very impressive as a passer in his limited starts. However, replacing Drew Brees with a 30-year-old quarterback who has four starts is very risky. Considering the Saints did sign the BYU alumnus to a two-year extension this season, Hill will likely be suiting up for the Saints in 2021.
Saints’ Internal Candidate: Jameis Winston
The other internal option would be Jameis Winston. He did not play much at all this season and was signed on a one-year deal in the offseason. There has been speculation that Winston could be brought back to compete for a starting job, but only free-agency will tell his future. Winston is more established than Hill as a starter. He even led the NFL in passing yards in 2019. However, Winston’s inconsistency and carelessness as a QB lost him a starting job. His role learning under Sean Payton and Drew Brees may have benefited him. If New Orleans feels that he is capable of starting, don’t be surprised if he is given a contract and a chance to compete in the offseason. Winston is very talented and is only 27 years old. If he lost the bad habits he had in Tampa Bay last year, his ceiling is very high.
Free Agent Options
If the Saints choose to build from outside the organization at QB, their options are the draft, free agency, and trade. This year’s free-agent class is not very strong at QB. Names like Phillip Rivers, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Mitch Trubisky top the market. I find it unlikely that the Saint’s sign a free agent QB. It would be redundant considering the role Jameis Winston played in 2020. Why sign a player in a weak free-agent market if you’d have to overpay him to perform worse than Taysom Hill? The Saints are 95 million dollars over the cap going into 2021, making signing a free agent very difficult.
Quarterbacks Available Via Trade
If the Saints chose to pursue a QB via trade, there are a few options. Names that have been rumored to be on the trade block include Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, Sam Darnold, and Deshaun Watson. Stafford and Ryan are on the backend of their careers. However, given the weapons the Saints have and Sean Payton’s offense, they could see a career rejuvenation. Darnold has played poorly in a bad system with little to no talent. At 24 years old, has a low risk high reward value. Deshaun Watson is one of the best QBs in the NFL, but if the Saints were to acquire him, it would likely be very costly in terms of draft picks and players. A younger QB would be good for the Saints young talent to build around. With an average amount of draft capital and no cap room, though, it will be hard to trade for a big name.
The last option at QB would be via the draft. This year’s draft class is very strong at QB, but with the 28th pick, the top names will likely be off the board. At the 28th spot, the QBs available to the Saints could possibly be Kyle Trask, Trey Lance, or Mac Jones. If the Saints chose to go in this direction, it will be the first time in a long time that the Saints have chosen a new face to build around. Drafting a QB also means the Saints are somewhat committing to a setback, and considering their cap issue, many of the team’s players will have to be released or get contract reworks, thus reshaping the organization entirely. Drafting a QB does not mean he is a starter from day one, but as a rookie, to learn under Sean Payton is a blessing.
With the future uncertain at Qb for the Saints, this offseason will be large. Maybe Drew Brees doesn’t retire. But if Drew has played his last game in the NFL, whoever is next at quarterback for the Saints, has giant shoes to fill, but a plethora of help to do so.