The New Orleans Saints have made 53 picks in the 1st round of the NFL draft in the franchise's fifty-four-year-old history. Just once has one of those selections been used on the quarterback position.
It was in 1971 when the team took Archie Manning from Mississippi with the second overall selection. With the imminent retirement of future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, the Saints find themselves in the market for a quarterback for the first time since before the 2006 season.
The most logical move for the Saints would be to re-sign 27-Yr old QB Jameis Winston, who knows the offense after spending last season with the team but is an unrestricted free agent. New Orleans could also roll into 2021 with versatile offensive weapon Taysom Hill behind center. Hill started four games for the team last year, with mixed results, while Brees was out with injury.
New Orleans will be mentioned among several rumors in what is expected to be a chaotic offseason of quarterback movement. Players who have had some success, like former Saint Teddy Bridgewater, Jimmy Garoppolo, Sam Darnold, Gardner Minshew, Mitchell Trubisky, and Cam Newton could be available through trade or on the free-agent market.
The most electric signal-caller that will be available is 25-Yr old franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans. Watson has requested a trade, but the asking price for the talented quarterback will probably be multiple first-round picks and a high-end player or two.
Unless New Orleans swings a blockbuster deal for Watson, the other players available at the position have had only moderate success in the NFL. Even Winston, the 1st overall selection in the 2015 draft, has displayed great potential but also a penchant for turnovers and poor decisions.
New Orleans head coach Sean Payton has drafted 90 players since taking over the team in 2006. Only three picks were used to draft a quarterback:
- Sean Canfield (2010 - 7th round)
- Garrett Grayson (2015 - 3rd round)
- Tommy Stevens (2020 - 7th round)
There are possibly six quarterbacks that are projected to be selected in the 1st round of this springs draft. Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Justin Fields (Ohio State), Zach Wilson (BYU), and perhaps Trey Lance (North Dakota State) could all be off the board in the first eight picks. New Orleans could package a deal to move up from their 28th selection into the top-10, but with other options at the position would probably be too steep a price to pay to move up that much.
Other quarterbacks that would be available in the mid-1st round are Mac Jones (Alabama) and Kyle Trask (Florida), with Kellen Mond (Texas A&M) and Jamie Newman (Wake Forest) likely going on Day 2. New Orleans scouts met with Newman and Jones at last week's Senior Bowl, with both meetings reportedly going well.
The Saints have built one of the deepest teams in the NFL on both sides of the ball, largely because of excellent drafting. Draft picks are valuable to the team, but thanks to their talent and depth, they are in the fortunate spot to not need multiple draft picks to fill major areas of need. Because of that, this would be the perfect time for the Saints to draft a quarterback, or even to put together a package to move up to select a quarterback in the first round.
New Orleans faces a tough challenge to keep their talented team together in the face of salary cap concerns and contract situations. The front office has been masterful at managing the salary cap over the years. If they can do that again, the Saints will continue to have a squad capable of competing for a championship. A perfect scenario to bring a young quarterback on board.
If the team can maneuver the salary cap successfully to keep its younger talent in place, a rookie quarterback would not command a large contract over the next four years. The Saints could re-sign a player like QB Jameis Winston to a short deal, hand the reins over to Taysom Hill for a year, or even bring in a stop-gap veteran while a rookie learns the offense.
New Orleans faces the rare challenge of replacing a legend in Drew Brees. The answer could be with Jameis Winston. Or the team could do something it hasn't done in 50 years and draft a quarterback in the 1st round. With a team already built to win a title, this would be the ideal time to make that move.