What Does the Future Hold for the New Orleans Saints?
For the 3rd year in a row, the New Orleans Saints took a 'bad beat' in the playoffs. However, this time, the loss is more significant than all the others. Because, according to all reports, last night was the last game for future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees. Brees' departure, even with declining arm strength and ability, is going to leave a massive hole in the team and how the Saints handle his departure will effect the team for the next decade.
I don't think anybody can argue with what Brees was able to accomplish on a football field. Statistically speaking, he's either 1 or 2 in every major passing category. Dude, without question, is incredible at football. However, even more importantly, he is the identity and heartbeat of the Saints franchise. He brought hope to a city struggling to survive after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He took a team that struggled to make the playoffs and turned them into perennial contenders. Moving forward, those are going to be some HUGE shoes to fill.
So, who will be the Saints quarterback next year? That's a good question. The up-coming draft will have a quality quarterback class. From Trevor Lawrence to Kyle Trask to Mac Jones, the Saints could get a rookie that has the potential to be their franchise QB for the next decade.
There's Jameis Winston, who would be my pick to lead the Saints into the future. Winston has a strong arm, which is perfect for a Sean Payton offense. He was in the QB room with Brees and got to learn from the best. And, if the Saints choose the resign him, he's going to be a LOT cheaper than some of the other veteran options. While he didn't get a lot of opportunities to shine this year, Winston in limited field time went 8-12 for 131 yards and a touchdown. Plus, Winston seemingly has Brees' endorsement, as Drew was spotted last night on the sidelines telling Jameis "This is your team now".
My two biggest fears in the offseason are this: Sean Payton puts on his blinders and gives the job to Taysom Hill or that the Saints put together a blockbuster trade for someone like Deshaun Watson.
Let's start with Taysom Hill: He's an amazing athlete and could help the Saints longterm, but he can't do that as a starting quarterback. Payton gave him the chance to start while Brees was injured earlier this year and the results were a mixed bag at best. He looked amazing against bad defenses like the Atlanta Falcons. However, against teams like the Broncos and Philly, he looked average. Heck, against the Broncos, he threw for 78 yards, no touchdowns and fumbled once. Against Philly, he threw for a good 291 and two touchdowns. However, he also threw a costly interception and fumbled during another important possession. In fact during his 4 game run as a starter, he turned the ball over 4 times and fumbled the ball 3 other times that the Saints luckily were able to recover. There's a lot more to be a starting QB than just making the ESPN Top Plays list.
As far as trading for someone like Deshaun Watson or Carson Wentz, while they could be great franchise QBs for the Saints, there's also going to be a huge cost associated with those players. To get Watson, you're probably going to have to cough up a star like Michael Thomas and several draft picks. And then there's being able to afford his contract not just this season but moving forward. Same thing with Carson Wentz and some of the other QBs rumored to be on the trading block. There's a lot of potential there, but there's also a great risk because of all the capital you're going to have to give up to get them.
Finally, there's the free agent market. From Phillip Rivers to Mitch Trubisky, there's a lot of available quarterbacks. But, this too will be a dangerous proposition as the Saints will have to overpay for a QB on the open market. Which is going to be tough for the Saints, who are currently projected to be nearly $100 million over the 2021 salary cap. Not a good situation to be in when you have to replace a franchise quarterback while trying to be competitive moving forward.
The Saints are in a tough position, but they aren't in an impossible one. This is a good year for Quarterbacks in the NFL draft. They have Jameis Winston who likes being a Saint and is cheap comparted to other options. There's several high level QBs on the trading block and free agency market. But, whatever decision the Saints make in the coming weeks and months, that decision will directly impact the Saints for the next decade. So, as a Saints fan, I hope they don't rush to make a decision and really think about their next move before pulling the trigger.