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Should the Saints sign Daunte Culpepper?

As you may have heard, the Dolphins released Daunte Culpepper, which is great news for the rest of the league. Why? Let's review Daunte Culpepper's Dolphin career: signs with the Dolphins with a torn ACL, rehabs with the Dolphins, comes back early, plays four games, gets benched, fully heals, gets released. So, if you're scoring at home, Daunte Culpepper is healthy, and has gotten those uncomfortable first-few games out of the way. For many players--I won't say all--this is the point where they start to dominate (see, McAllister, Deuce week 5, 2006).

Now, Drew Brees is about as firmly entrenched at starting quarterback as someone can be. At this point, injury and early-clinching of a playoff spot are the only factors that can force his removal from the lineup. But this is the NFL, where the attrition rate is pretty substantial, so any team--even the Indianapolis Colts--would be well-served to have a capable backup.

The window for an NFL team to win a Superbowl is fairly short--usually around five years. The Saints' window is wide open right now, especially when they enter the season with the fewest question marks of any team in their conference. But if the Saints lose Drew Brees for any extended period of time, it could be catastrophic for the team. Bear in mind, the last season that primary backup Jamie Martin saw any significant playing time was 2005 when he started for a poor St. Louis team. Martin completed 70% of his passes, with 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Again, his team was horrendous, so he may get a pass for his performance. But consider this--in the only two seasons that he has thrown 100+ passes in his career (he's 37, and there have only been two .... ) he threw more interceptions than touchdowns. What's more, since 2000, in games where Martin has thrown 11+ passes, his teams are 4-12.

Jamie Martin seems like a good steward of an offense. His arm's not strong, but he's sharp of mind. I once called him a coach on the field--both mentally and physically. Is he capable of entering a game in relief and winning it? Absolutely. Will he make it through 8 games without being exposed? Doubtful. The Saints should hedge their bet that Drew Brees will stay healthy and sign a higher-quality backup.

Is Daunte Culpepper that guy? The first issue would be price. I have no idea what kind of contract Daunte would get, but since most of the starting positions have been filled, I'm imagining that his best option would be competing with Jeff Garcia and Chris Simms in Tampa, or competing with Mike Vick in Atlanta (seriously, Atlanta, sign him. He's better than Vick, even when Vick is of clear, focused mind. Plus, the irony of him replacing Joey Harrington is just too juicy.). If those options fall through, Culpepper will be backing up, so why not New Orleans?

The second issue would, of course, be health. Miami wasn't a great offensive team last season, and Culpepper went 1-3 in the first-four games of the season, before being benched by Joey Harrington. But did Nick Saban cut the cord too soon? Consider this: while Culpepper went 1-2 in his final three games, his ratings for those games were 91.9, 83.5 and 86.4. That's not great, but for a quarterback just coming back from major knee surgery, it's also not bad. He is also two-seasons-removed from a stratospheric 4700 yard, 39 touchdown season (2004). Oh yeah, and his team won 11 games that year. And I would argue that during that season, Culpepper played in a lesser offense than the Saints. They had Randy Moss and ....

Assuming that Culpepper doesn't ask for the world, now that he's healthy, the Saints could do a lot worse than to sign him as a backup quarterback.