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New Orleans Saints position outlook: Quarterback in great hands as long as Drew Brees in the picture

The Saints, like many teams, will be sitting at home watching football wondering what could have been. The good news is that the future looks bright.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

We’re no stranger to change when it comes to the New Orleans Saints. Among the biggest changes for the early new year is the firings of long-time coaching assistants Joe Vitt, Greg McMahon, and Bill Johnson. While this was no doubt something fans have been publicly hoping for for quite some time, this still figures to be a pivotal season for the black and gold.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll feature a series that assesses next year’s Saints by position. We’ll take into account any free agents, looking at all players set to come back, and give some potential draft targets.

What the Saints are working with

  • Drew Brees: The soon-to-be 38-year-old quarterback has overcome national criticism time after time by being one of the premiere and elite passers of the NFL. Brees had his highest totals in yardage (5,208) since 2013, the highest completion percentage (70.0) since 2011, and the most completions (471) of his career. He’s the unheralded leader of this football team, and as many view this as the ‘last ride’ for Sean Payton to get the Saints back into the playoffs and go deep, Brees is the primary ingredient.
  • Luke McCown: Not seeing McCown is a good thing for fans, and it was good to see the Saints go with two quarterbacks on the 2016 squad. McCown, who is owed $1.75 million in the new season, should remain the Brees insurance policy.
  • Garrett Grayson: Let’s be clear. This is the last opportunity for Grayson to do something. It was disappointing him to see him somewhat regress from his rookie season, and he ended up getting released and slotted on the practice squad for the season. The fact that no one else was looking for his services is pretty telling. However, the Saints ended up locking him up on a reserve/future deal, and Grayson’s aware of what’s at stake.

Free Agent targets

The market is pretty empty and uninspiring for quarterbacks right now, but it’s not like the Saints need a starter. I’d maybe eye someone like Mike Glennon. He could garner some Brock Osweiler-like interest on the open market after losing his starting seat to Jameis Winston. However, if he were to take a step back and go a route on a one-year deal with a club like the Saints and learn from some of the best in the business, it could be worth his while. Other than that, don’t expect the Saints to actively pursue a quarterback in free agency.

Draft possibilities

If this is the season the team feels like they need to land Brees’ successor, they’ll have a few players that would be appealing. What I’ll give you throughout the series is a mix of what the Saints could get in the high, mid, and low value out of the NFL Draft.

  • High - Brad Kaaya: He’s a popular name to be tied with the Saints, and it’s not a coincidence. The team is reportedly one of six franchises that have kept an eye on the Miami Hurricanes product. Kaaya broke tons of team records in his three-year stint, and the 22-year-old will likely see his draft stock rise over the next couple of months.
  • Mid - Chad Kelly: The ACL injury shortened his season with Ole Miss, but that doesn’t make anyone overlook his arm. Jim Kelly’s nephew certainly fits a fast-paced offense, which would make sense for the team to look at him. He has some growing up to do, but a team like the Saints could help him hone his arm and be an interesting mid-round pickup.
  • Low - Nathan Peterman: Now LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada really rose last year with Pitt, and his quarterback helped with that. Peterman, who transferred from Tennessee, put together a very respectable season for the Panthers. The biggest draw for Peterman is that Pitt ran a pro-style offense. He’s one to keep an eye on during Senior Bowl week.

In a nutshell

When you think about the chances for the 2017 Saints, Drew Brees is a crucial and essential part of the equation. If and when Brees moves on after next season, that could be the start of a complete rebuild for the team. However, like Brees said in his season-ending press conference, we’re only focused on the new season and getting back into the postseason.