2021 QB carousel could bring the Saints just what they need

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
John Sigler
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Who starts at quarterback for the New Orleans Saints in 2021? They have three passers under contract in Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, and Trevor Siemian (who finished the 2020 season on the practice squad), but Brees is expected to announce his retirement and begin a career in the NBC broadcast booth.

The Saints went 3-1 with Hill starting in Brees’ place. Jameis Winston showed the coaching staff plenty to like in a year of practice, but he’s an unrestricted free agent. And this year’s quarterbacks carousel is taking quite a spin.

It’s a solid free agent class in its own right, with quarterbacks like Dak Prescott (a franchise tag candidate returning from a serious ankle injury) and Cam Newton, and veteran backups like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, Jacoby Brissett, and Mitchell Trubisky all joining Winston on the open market.

But the real interest lies in trade candidates. Deshaun Watson, the young face of the franchise for the Houston Texans, is the biggest name on the outs with his old team. Matthew Stafford isn’t interested in another Detroit Lions rebuild and has already agreed to part ways with them. It seems all but certain Sam Darnold will be shipped out of town by the New York Jets as they throw another highly-drafted rookie into the grinder. The San Francisco 49ers might be looking to upgrade from Jimmy Garoppolo. And Aaron Rodgers could request a trade after another frustrating postseason loss with the Green Bay Packers, who already picked his replacement in the 2020 NFL draft.

Some of those veterans on the trade block, like Watson and Garoppolo, have more agency than others. They can choose to waive the no-trade clause in their contracts after surveying the market and picking a destination. What effect that may have on trade compensation is uncertain, but it’s not nothing.

And it’s anyone’s guess how this year’s draft shakes out. Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields are virtual locks to be picked first and second overall, but things aren’t as clear for Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Mac Jones, and the other passers ranked behind them. If nothing else is clear about this, it’s that the Saints have plenty of options.

The most realistic path forwards is probably re-signing Winston and having him compete with Hill in training camp. Both quarterbacks know the system and are known by the coaching staff, which is in flux with so many assistants leaving for new opportunities (including quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi). But with that said, it’s worth remembering that Saints coach Sean Payton is a big believer in hunting big game in the offseason.

So much so that Tom Brady could have landed in New Orleans last year, not Tampa Bay. Had Brees not returned for another title run, there was enough mutual interest between Brady and the Saints to get a deal done and go from one G.O.A.T. to another. But Brees came back for 2020, Brady settled in as a division rival, and the rest is history.

Sure, the Saints are in a tight spot where the salary cap is concerned. It isn’t an impossible scenario to get out of, even if they’ll have to make some tough decisions along the way (Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football broke it down thoroughly). Their accounting team knows more about how to make those numbers work than anyone reading this probably does. Don’t think of it as too big of an obstacle to overcome.

The end point of all of this: the Saints have the resources to go get a blue-chip quarterback, one way or another. They’re an attractive destination with a winning culture and popular head coach, and one of just two teams that can boast they’ve reached the postseason in each of the last four years (along with the Kansas City Chiefs). The Saints will have opportunities to steady the ship and find a franchise quarterback after Brees has retired, even if the transition isn’t as smooth as many fans might hope for.

And if nothing else, they’ve already proven they can win with both Winston and Hill. Maybe the best plan would be to put them against each other head-to-head this summer and see if the victor has what it takes to hold down the job for the next decade.