There's been a ton of chatter regarding what the future quarterback situation looks like for the Saints. Drew Brees watch will be in effect over the next several weeks, which could lead up to the start of the new league year as the team prepares for apparent life without No. 9. We take a look at some possible and unlikely, although appealing targets for New Orleans' next guy to go under center and lead the team in 2021.
What They Have Now
Going into the new season, Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian (reserve/future) are under contract at quarterback. Hill's scheduled to be $16.15 million against the cap in 2021, and would appear to be the top option to replace Drew Brees currently. Hill has had his share of struggles running the New Orleans offense, despite going 3-1 as a starter without Brees. He must get better with his ball security, decision-making, progression, and reads for fans to feel a lot more confident there.
Free Agent Options
Looking ahead, there's a few options in free agency for the Saints. However, only a couple would really have starting potential. It'd make all the sense in the world to get Jameis Winston back in the building to compete with Hill, and reading between the lines of what Sean Payton has said leads me to believe it happens. Cam Newton, love him or hate him, will be a free agent, but doesn't feel like the direction the Saints would go. Players like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor are certainly linked to the team via betting odds, but also don't feel like realistic options to pursue unless it's for a backup role.
Worth Mentioning, But Not Likely
Dak Prescott's future in Dallas is cloudy, but it would appear the Cowboys likely use a franchise tag here unless a deal gets done. It's hard to see Prescott hitting the open market, but he would be one to look at. Matt Ryan, who some might cringe at the thought of, is probably getting traded as the Falcons evaluate their future options. The timing here is what's important. Right now, Ryan would leave the Falcons with $44 million in dead cap space, but waiting until June 1st would actually save them $23 million for an $18 million charge. Ryan is a good quarterback with a few strong years left in the tank.
Then there's Sam Darnold. New head coach Robert Saleh has not committed to him as the Jets quarterback, and maybe they go in a different direction here. However, some reports have linked him to staying in New York to get a shot as their guy in 2021. Sean Payton could absolutely help revamp Darnold's career and maximize it, but that would also mean they turn to someone like him over Hill and/or Winston.
After Sunday's NFC Championship game, a lot are looking into Aaron Rodgers after his comments talked about the future and uncertainty. He's on the books for Green Bay until 2024. If he does actually go anywhere, which would likely mean the Packers aren't going to make nearly as deep a run without him, then Rodgers will have some say on the next area, and that screams the West Coast.
Drafting, Developing the Next One
The draft is going to supply some options, as Mac Jones, Trey Lance, Kyle Trask, and Zach Wilson would be appealing thoughts for the Saints. Here's the problem with that. Jones, Lance, and Wilson are likely among the Top 15 picks. That's not set in stone, however. Trask might be the lone realistic option for a late-round pick. If that happens, New Orleans may be more a team that is going in a completely different direction. It's not out of the realm of possibilities, but just doesn't feel like it'll go that way.
Swing for the Fence Options
If New Orleans wants to pick up right where they left off, then there's two quarterbacks you can acquire who would be undisputed Day 1 starters for you. That's Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson. Watson is all but out of Houston, according to reports, but the Texans are wanting a King's Ransom for him. The Saints don't exactly have a ton of draft capital, but doesn't mean they can't try, even if it was a wild card like Rodgers. Watson would be tremendous in the New Orleans offense, as would Stafford. Stafford, who turns 33 in February, has plenty to offer as well, but again the price could be out of the Saints' reach. If the team makes a move like this, then you fully expect them to have deep postseason aspirations and put together another run.
What Might Actually Happen
All of the pie in the sky scenarios are nice, but what seems realistic? What might actually happen is the Saints re-sign Jameis Winston on a one or two-year deal to have him go head-to-head against Taysom Hill. A real quarterback battle ensues during training camp, and it comes down to either a roulette look or one of them actually emerging as 'the guy' to lead the charge for the team in the new season. Let's face it, Winston doesn't have a Teddy Bridgewater situation on his hands where he came in and won games with Brees being out. Yes, he was a long-standing starter at Tampa, and could get some opportunities elsewhere. However, it just feels like his best bet is staying in New Orleans to compete.
There's a ton of intrigue here, as the Saints are a very appealing destination. They have a lot of in-house items to tackle with them losing a good bit of personnel, but it's definitely going to be the long game here for Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis.