The countdown is on for the New Orleans Saints, as we await the decision of what Drew Brees wants to do for the 2020 season. Brees has been upfront regarding his thought process, not wanting to rush into a decision and waiting until the mid-to-late part of February to inform the team of his intentions. It's anyone's guess as to what will ultimately happen, but here's some thoughts on how the potential scenarios could play out for the Saints.
Drew Brees Returns
It's the Saints or nobody for Brees, and that has been echoed by many. The starting job is his, assuming he returns. It would be the best-case scenario for New Orleans, and would legitimately give them the best opportunity to make another deep postseason run in 2020. Brees has been extremely effective, despite the claims of 'father time' catching up to him.
Sure, you may have noticed a decline in the effectiveness in the deep ball, but that means the Saints have to adjust. Getting better weapons in addition to Michael Thomas and Jared Cook would help. Let's not pretend to overlook the four-game stretch at the end of the season where Brees threw 15 touchdown passes (leaped for one rushing, too) and performed at an elite level. It was the complete opposite narrative at the end of the 2018 season, where there were claims he wasn't effective any longer.
Drew Brees Retires
It would be a shame to see Brees leave the way he did, with his final game at home losing in the Wild Card round to Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. Naturally, that loss wasn't solely on him. He has several NFL records to his name, but hanging it up now would mean Tom Brady could easily reclaim some of those top honors. While Brady's future is up in the air like Brees', it's more of where Brady wants to play than if he wants to play.
No matter how you look at it, Brees deserves the pomp and circumstance when he does hang it up. No Saints player should ever wear No. 9 again, as he'll assuredly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and immediate inductee to the Saints Hall of Fame.
Some fans who recall the 'dark ages' prior to Brees have accepted the fate of returning back to that void of the late 90s. Let's also not forget that the Saints would be on the hook for $21.3 million in dead money if Brees retires.
Drew Brees Retires, Taysom Hill is Lost
This might be the worst-case scenario for the Saints, and it seems highly unlikely to play out. Of course, it all hinges on the timing. If Brees holds true to his promise of a decision to come back prior to the end of February, New Orleans should have a good understanding of what they must do ahead of free agency on March 18. This could also include trying to bring back Teddy Bridgewater, who has openly said that he'll use his head over his heart to make the next move.
On the open market, Bridgewater could likely command between $15-20 million annually on his next deal. Also, the Saints hold the cards with anyone who offers Taysom Hill a contract when they ultimately place a restricted free agent tender on him. Hill has been adamant in his stance of wanting to be a quarterback, but maybe that's more of a power play for those who are looking at potentially signing him to be a 'Jack of all trades'. Ultimately, this would force the team's hand in trying to find their guy of 2020 to try to remain a contender.
Drew Brees Returns, Taysom Hill is Kept
Taysom Hill is a quarterback, and it's not like the Saints don't view him as one. Let's assume Brees comes back, and that Hill is tagged under a high restricted free agent tender. If they truly use a high tender on him that could return a first-round pick, then the Saints could ultimately use that to package and broker a deal for a quarterback. Again, New Orleans essentially holds all the cards for Hill here. If a team makes an offer for Hill, then the Saints would have an opportunity to match it. The Saints could ultimately allow another team to put a price tag on Hill's value and then make a decision whether to match.
The Saints could still pull off some type of deal for Hill to be their long-term quarterback, assuming that's what they truly believe. Remember what happened with Wil Lutz last season? New Orleans could have rolled the dice by tagging Lutz as a RFA, but instead rewarded him with a 5-year, $20.25 million contract extension. This could play out the same way for Hill.
There's a bunch of ways that this could ultimately play out for New Orleans, but what does seem logical at this point is that the team's future plans will be with Brees and Hill.
Wild Card: All Three Return
This figures to be the unlikeliest of scenarios, especially if the Saints have the belief in Hill as the franchise QB. Some of that disbelief in this happening could stem from Bridgewater's words, as it seems highly unlikely that he returns on a small deal when he could clearly get more.
Presumably, let's say Hill gets tendered high, which could come at around $4 million-$6 million. You'd then have Brees re-sign (new deal would be approximately in the $27 million-$29 million range), and then Bridgewater getting some type of heavy incentive type of contract, but would likely not be a backup for less than $10 million-$12 million. That's almost $50 million tied to three quarterbacks, which would be 25 percent of a projected $200 million salary cap. That money would arguably be spent better elsewhere.
The national media has hopped all over the Hill phenomenon lately, and it's been pretty crazy to see. Perhaps Sean Payton, a mastermind understudy of Bill Parcells, is sending smokescreens all over the place.
This will be an interesting next 30 days as things sort out in the Saints quarterback room.