Burning Saints offseason questions: What happens at quarterback?
It's been an interesting past few years for the New Orleans Saints, who have rebounded in a big way following three straight seasons of darkness from 2014-2016. Sean Payton's squad has turned in a 37-11 regular season record over the past few seasons, but have fallen short in each of their postseason runs. Entering 2020, it proves to be no different for the Saints, as they have many questions to answer going into the new season. Today, we look at perhaps their biggest one.
What is the quarterback situation going to look like?
Again, there's probably no bigger question for the Saints at this present point in time, as all three of their 2019 rostered quarterbacks (Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill) are not under contract in 2020. Out of all three, the Saints will arguably have the easiest opportunity in keeping Hill, who is a restricted free agent. There will undoubtedly be some other suitors for his services, but New Orleans virtually holds all the cards.
In all likelihood, Teddy Bridgewater will be the odd man out for the Saints. There's too many quarterback-needy teams that will court the 27-year-old free agent, but the biggest question remains as to what the 5-0 record from the past season sample size will pay him on the open market. It feels like $15-18 million annually would be the threshold for Bridgewater, and that just won't be a tag the Saints can afford.
For Drew Brees, there's time for the Saints to get him locked up in a contract extension to avoid his impending dead money cap hit for the new league year. It's hard to envision New Orleans not heading into next season without him being the starter, and honestly Brees gives the Saints the best shot at winning a championship with their current core still intact. Brees said on Wednesday that he'll take his time to decompress, like he's always done, and General Manager Mickey Loomis sees him in the plans.
What should realistically happen is that Brees and Hill return, and the Saints will need to find another backup option. There's a lot of infatuation with Joe Burrow and New Orleans making a play to trade up, but I just can't see it happening when they're so close with what they have.
Worst-case scenario: Brees retires, Bridgewater goes elsewhere in free agency, and the Saints can't retain Hill. That would probably never happen, but that would leave the team scrambling and have them try to go 'all-in' for someone like Burrow.
Best-case scenario: Brees returns under a contract extension along with Hill, and Bridgewater gives it one more season in New Orleans in the hopes of challenging for the starting role under Sean Payton in 2021. It would allow the Saints to continue using Hill as their coveted Swiss Army knife.
Here's a few free agents the Saints could look at, assuming Bridgewater is lost.
Marcus Mariota - It just feels like he would make sense in New Orleans. The Titans have used Mariota, the former starting quarterback, in a few different ways that would bode well for a Sean Payton-led offense, and their priority is trying to re-sign Ryan Tannehill.
Chase Daniel - The familiarity with New Orleans is all too real for the 33-year-old backup journeyman. He's said he'd like to return to the Bears, but some quick work by the Saints could get him in the building again to be the backup to Brees.
Blake Bortles - Before you laugh, remember that this is a team that brought in Tom Savage to compete for a backup spot. Again, when you look at the bigger picture financially, Bortles just took $1 million on a one-year deal to be the backup to Jared Goff in Los Angeles. Naturally, there were some other moving parts of that contract because of the Jaguars still paying him. However, we've seen some players just need a fresh start to thrive, and maybe there's something here.
Brett Hundley - I'm looking at the fit, and Hundley could help bring some interesting looks to the Saints offense. New Orleans has faced Hundley before (Packers in 2017 and technically a handful of snaps against the Cardinals in 2019).
Mike Glennon - Once upon a time, Sean Payton thought about having Glennon as the understudy to Brees. A lot has changed since then, as Glennon has been through several different franchises and hasn't lived up to the hype. Still, it seems like the Saints get the most out of their quarterbacks, and adding him could be intriguing.