For the first time in 16 years, the New Orleans Saints may have a new starting quarterback in their season opener. Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees has been the franchise's quarterback since 2006 by playing 245 of 267 games for New Orleans. The main question and beyond involves the quarterback position if Brees decides to retire after a legendary career with the Saints.
Backup QB and offensive chess piece Taysom Hill had a four-game audition at the position when Brees was injured last season and produced mixed results. Jameis Winston joined New Orleans on a one-year deal last year after a five-year career with Tampa Bay that produced tons of yardage and tons of turnovers. He saw little playing time but has the physical talents to be a franchise signal-caller and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
The Saints have been rumored to potential trades for elite quarterbacks like Russell Wilson of Seattle or Houston's Deshaun Watson. They have also been linked to possible deals for the Jet's Sam Darnold and former Saints backup Teddy Bridgewater, now in Carolina. Simultaneously, San Francisco's Jimmy Garoppolo and Marcus Mariota of the Raiders are also reportedly available via trade.
New Orleans could also address this position in the draft, something they've done only once in the 1st round during their entire history. March 17 begins free agency and should provide a big clue to what direction the team is leaning at the position.
Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys is currently the biggest quarterback name that might hit the market. However, Dallas is most likely to use their franchise tag on Prescott if they cannot reach a new deal before free agency begins. Here are some of the other names scheduled to hit the open market at the sport’s most important position.
- C.J. Beathard (27 - 49ers)
- Jacoby Brissett (28 - Colts)
- Andy Dalton (33 - Cowboys)
- Ryan Fitzpatrick (38 - Dolphins)
- Cam Newton (32 - Patriots)
- Alex Smith (36 - Washington)
- Tyrod Taylor (32 - Chargers)
- Mitchell Trubisky (27 - Bears)
(Age and previous team in parentheses)
Beathard, Brissett, and Taylor have each been starters for brief times throughout their careers. All three have good mobility, but none have shown the ability to be consistently productive in an offense for an entire season. They are better candidates to provide an experienced backup option, similar to what the Saints have done by bringing in Winston and Bridgewater over the last few years.
Trubisky has been linked to New Orleans as a landing spot by some predictions. The 2nd overall pick by Chicago in the 2017 draft, Trubisky has been maddeningly inconsistent and has been benched multiple times. He has excellent mobility, but poor mechanics that have led to erratic performances.
Dalton, Fitzpatrick, Newton, and Smith are seasoned starters that have had success, but all are well past their prime. Smith, the NFL Comeback Player of the Year with Washington last season, was recently released despite leading that team to a playoff berth. Any of these four would be a quality backup at the right price, but none should be viewed as a long-term solution. They could, however, be a ‘‘bridge’’ starter if the Saints plan to target a quarterback in the draft.
The 27-Yr old Jameis Winston has been the most productive passer outside of Prescott and represents the highest upside of the pending free agents at quarterback. Coach Sean Payton has expressed confidence several times in Winston's ability to lead his offense. If that’s indeed true, then we will see New Orleans try to lock Winston into a deal before the free agency starts.
If it isn't, then we could see New Orleans add one of these free agents if unable to swing a big trade, then add their future quarterback in the draft.