The Saints are hoping to be a contender in 2022, and the biggest area of need they're going to have to address is the quarterback position. Currently, New Orleans has plenty of question marks going into the offseason. Here's a few thoughts on how things could play out for Sean Payton's squad.
The Current Landscape
As of now, the Saints will carry three quarterbacks into 2022. Those include Taysom Hill, Ian Book, and Blake Bortles. Trevor Siemian and Jameis Winston are set to be free agents, while Bortles was locked up on a reserve/future deal. It goes without saying that Hill's outlook is cloudy with his Lisfranc injury, which could keep him out around 6-9 months.
An Easy, Sensible Approach
The Saints could bring back Jameis Winston, who appears to be doing very well in his rehab from a major injury. Winston just turned 28, and there was plenty of evidence that the offense was starting to catch a groove with him at the helm. Now, there's obviously some risk in getting him given the ACL surgery, but many may forget that there was no procedure needed for the MCL. In a best-case scenario, Winston would be available for the start of minicamp for whatever team gets him.
What should also be considered for Winston is that he could explore options on his own. Although he's loved the experience in New Orleans, there's a possibility that other teams are going to be very interested in him. There could be a happy medium where Winston comes back on a one-year deal and tries to cash in on a bigger one.
Swinging For the Fences
Russell Wilson continues to be the hottest name floating out there for the Saints, but him moving is not a given. That's also the case with Aaron Rodgers, and the future with someone like Deshaun Watson is cloudy. Wilson will turn 34 in November, and carries a $37 million cap hit going into 2022. Money has never stopped the Saints, so there could be a way to fit him in.
Expect New Orleans to do their due diligence, but there could be a point where the cost is too great. All signs are pointing to Seattle keeping Pete Carroll, so that could keep Wilson with the Seahawks unless they're prepared for a complete rebuild under Carroll.
Other options could present themselves going into the new league year. Many were shocked to see the Rams pull off a trade with the Lions to acquire Matthew Stafford. You just never know.
Drafting Comes With Caution
There's a premium of college talent coming into this draft. Sam Howell (North Carolina), Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh), Desmond Ridder (Cincinnati), Carson Strong (Nevada), Mailk Willis (Liberty), and Bailey Zappe (Western Kentucky) will all be on display at the Senior Bowl. Matt Corral (Ole Miss) is arguably the top prospect, and should be fine after suffering an ankle sprain.
Does that mean the Saints should draft one with 18th overall pick? That's probably a topic for a later debate, but it almost feels like it would be a step backwards for a team that is just several players off from being a true contender. Everyone saw what happened with Ian Book being thrown in, and while Sean Payton and many have already said that you can't hold that game against him because of the situation, the fact remains that there should be caution expecting a rookie to come in to lead the team.
Food For Thought
Let's just say that you had to choose between two options: Russell Wilson or Jameis Winston. Would you rather have someone like Winston and be able to get a premiere free agent wide receiver or two and add through the draft, or would you rather Wilson working with Michael Thomas and hopefully adding a weapon through the draft with a lesser pick?
Wilson's trade value would likely command at least two 1st Round picks and at least one Day 2 pick as a potential starting point. New Orleans would likely part with their 2022 and 2023 1st Rounders to help acquire him. Seattle and New Orleans have dealt with each other in the past, as the Seahawks acquired Jimmy Graham for Max Unger and their 31st Overall pick that turned into Stephone Anthony.
Regardless of how you ultimately feel, this is going to be a huge focal point for the Saints and should be a top priority. They don't have as many free agent decisions to make over the next couple of months, but the pieces are important. Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis should be able to get another solid team together, and help improve the league's statistically worst passing attack from 2021.
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