Saints Starting Quarterback Prospects for 2021

The New Orleans Saints selection of their starting quarterback once again rests on the decision of Drew Brees.  But, with recent developments, should they wait?
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New Orleans will have options. At last count, it could lead to 6 prospects. GM Mickey Loomis was in Mobile, AL, scouting talent at the Senior Bowl. About a Drew Brees decision to return, Loomis said, "I don't think it's a lot different than last year in that we'll wait for him [Drew Brees]."   

Currently, the NFL quarterback landscape will undergo an extreme makeover. Pro Bowl quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson are seeking trades from Detriot and Houston, respectively. In New Orleans, before Loomis and Payton can make judgments on the position, Drew Brees must resolve if he will return for his 21st NFL season.

Albeit, here's a snapshot of the possible starting quarterbacks for the New Orleans Saints and each player's scenarios.

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees

Drew Brees

Brees is still the best option for the New Orleans Saints at quarterback. His resume speaks for itself. The one caveat is his health. After this season's fall and sustaining multiple injuries to his ribs, lung (punctured and collapsed), a torn labrum, and plantar fascia, why would he desire to come back to New Orleans?

His competitive spirit and drive for one last shot at a Super Bowl title is enough to drive Brees. Right?


QB Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson is the overwhelming favorite to secede Brees in New Orleans over Stafford. If you recall the 2019 home opener against the Texans, Watson had Brees and the Saints on the ropes. That was until Brees miraculously put the Saints in position for K Wil Lutz's game-winning field goal as time expired.

Watson, 25, brings his YOUTH, MOBILITY, LEADERSHIP, and UPSIDE as a quarterback. He has the potential to man the position for many a year in New Orleans. 

The Houston brass bungled and botched the general manager and head coaching search by not involving/consulting Watson as the owner McNair promised. The decision to hire former Ravens passing coordinator David Culley over Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy will be an ominous one for the franchise in the years to come. 

What has precipitated out of the Texans' hiring fiasco is the "Watson Watch" within the next several weeks. New Orleans is fortunate to be in the discussion of many experts. First, Chiefs and NOLA native Tyrann Mathieu tweeted the Saints into the scenarios, but it wasn't too far-fetched.   

The financial aspect would be the challenge for the Saints. Watson's cap number is $10.5 million for 2021. But the other quarterbacks, Brees ( ) and Hill at (10 hit, who will stay and who will leave?


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Matthew Stafford

Stafford, 33, has been a solid quarterback with a suspect supporting cast most of his career. The offensive line was the "usual suspects" against Stafford's success. The front office could never piece together a championship-caliber team for the veteran quarterback.

SI Fantasy's Michael Fabiano shared his thoughts on Stafford with me and said, "I can easily see 4,200-4,500 passing yards and 30 or more touchdown passes for Stafford in that offense. And that might be on the conservative side. He’s got plenty left in the tank. Of course, that assumes Michael Thomas is still on the roster."

The transition to Sean Payton's offense will not be too complicated for Stafford. In 12 seasons and 165 games, Stafford threw for 45,109 yards, 282 TDs, and 144 INTs for a 62.6% accuracy rate.

He is the type of player Sean Payton likes. Tough, smart, and gritty.


Saints QB Jameis Winston vs. 49ers

Credit: USA Today Sports

Jameis Winston

Sean Payton says the future quarterback of the New Orleans Saints is already in the building. Then Drew Brees gets injured and turns to Taysom Hill. In all fairness to Hill, he did win 3 out of 4 games for New Orleans in Drew's absence. But also credit Jameis Winston.   

The former Heisman winner and #1 draft choice of the Tampa Bay Bucs handled the situation well.  New Orleans may re-sign Winston to a more lucrative deal with an opportunity to compete with Taysom Hill.

If Brees remains in New Orleans, Winston may seek greener pastures in the NFL.


Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers QB

Teddy Bridgewater

Bridgewater?  Yes, Teddy Bridgewater.  Here's the skinny.

ESPN's Dan Graziano wrote, "the Panthers paid Bridgewater $24 million in 2020, and $10 million of his $17 million 2021 salary is fully guaranteed. He finished 17th in Total QBR, 17th in yards, 24th in passing touchdowns, and 12th in yards per attempt." Since the end of the season, the Panthers have inquired about quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins, Matthew Stafford, and Deshaun Watson. Haskins signed a contract with Pittsburgh last week.  

Today, Stafford and Watson are hot commodities for the Panthers. If Carolina lands either player, then trading or releasing Teddy would be their next move. A maneuver that could allow Bridgewater to rejoin the Saints before free agency begins on March 17 at 4 PM ET is a remote possibility.


Taysom Hill scores first Touchdown as Saints Starter

Taysom Hill

Taysom proved he could handle the role with his 3-1 record as the New Orleans starter. Before Brees' return, Hill was starting to become acclimated to the pressures of the job. His performances were uneven during the games, but this was not abnormal for any quarterback in his first four starts.

Hill's reading defenses, ability to read through progressions, and handle blitzes were problems at times, but not as large as his lack of ball security. He fumbled 11 times (10 regular season, 1 postseason).  

Coach Payton's question would be if Hill's 4-game sampling were enough to determine if he deserves a full-time starter's spot.


Zach Wilson - QB

Rookie

Under Sean Payton in New Orleans, a rookie quarterback may not start immediately in his offense. Only if Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) or a Zach Wilson (BYU) would fall to the #28 draft stock would it be considered a possibility. Barring from injuries, a COVID-19 outbreak, or other unforeseen dramatic events, Sean Payton usually patterns himself after the Bill Parcells philosophy of only starting a veteran at quarterback.

Mac Jones - QB

Mac Jones has drawn interest from the New Orleans Saints brass.  Ross Jackson reported Jones met with the Saints at the Senior Bowl and hoped "he impressed them and proved he's a smart QB."   Intelligence is a factor in deciding on players for Sean Payton.  After running back Alvin Kamara's Pro Day in Tennessee, Payton quickly noticed his intelligence and ability to grasp the offense and directions.  All proved to be true when New Orleans selected him in the 3rd round (67 overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Trade value and cap space will ultimately determine how the Saints will proceed in their search for next season's starting quarterback.  Brees and Hill have significant contracts that can be restructured by VP of Football Administration, Khai Harley and GM Mickey Loomis. 

Based on Mickey Loomis' comments this week, no formal plan of action is set in stone for the Saints. However, Mr. Loomis always listens for deals to make the team better.