Drew Brees brought the Lombardi Trophy to New Orleans in 2009. It was the one and only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, and thinking about Tracy Porter’s pick-six still gives me chills.
As amazing as it was for most fans, it meant so much more to the people of New Orleans, still recovering from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. The run from the 2006 season to the 2009 season was magical, giving an entire city hope and forever changing the image of the franchise around the league. It put the New Orleans Saints on the map and the “Who Dat” chant was loud and proud. Drew Brees can never truly be replaced. What he means to fans and to New Orleans, on and off the field, transcends the game of football. Watch the New Orleans Saints documentary “The Saints are Coming” and you will see exactly what I mean.
Although he is still playing at an elite level, he is surely nearing the end of a Hall of Fame career. His jersey will be retired, and he may even get a statue alongside Steve Gleason outside the Super Dome. Unfortunately, Father Time defeats us all, and at some point soon the Saints will have to find their successor to Drew Brees. Whoever he is will certainly have some big shoes to fill, but when will that time come and who will be the next Saints Quarterback? There are multiple avenues to find the Saints’ next QB: a trade, a free agency acquisition, or the draft - but what is the best route?
In the 2015 NFL Draft, the Saints selected Garrett Grayson in the 3rd round. Grayson is approaching his third NFL season, and so far has not even been able to win the backup job from Luke McCown. Unfortunately, Grayson is looking like a wasted pick, especially when we go back and see that players like David Johnson and Trey Flowers were still available. For a brief moment, rumors swirled around the possibility of the Saints acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots, but considering Brees wants to play several more seasons, that doesn’t seem to be a good move. Acquiring Garoppolo would mean a trade, and if the Saints feel that Brees will play a few more years (regardless of Brees’ current contract expiring), then Garoppolo becomes a free agent while Brees is still the starter.
We are now in the offseason with free agency and the draft both approaching. The draft seems like the only viable option to find a quarterback, but should it be this year? The fact is the Saints have much more pressing needs than finding another Quarterback, like fixing the league’s worst defense. Addressing positions like Defensive End, Cornerback, Linebacker and even the Offensive Line are much higher priorities. So if we are looking to draft a quarterback in 2017, where does that leave us? The 4th Round? The 6th? Every Quarterback who could be considered a serious option will be gone by the end of the 2nd Round. Should the Saints waste another pick on mid-tier talent that they hope can develop into their future franchise guy?
It’s still early but the QB Class of the 2018 Draft has been described as “stacked” compared to this years group. Names like Josh Rosen (UCLA), Sam Darnold (USC), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State), Jake Browning (Washington), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Lamar Jackson (Louisiville) are just a few names currently at the top of that list and it’s likely that even more will emerge by this time next year.
Solidifying the defense and Offensive Line would not only help Brees for the remainder of his time as a Saint, but it would also ease the transition of any rookie quarterback selected to be Brees’ successor. So, would it be better to use the draft picks this year to upgrade the defense and then, in 2018, use the 1st round pick on one of the top quarterbacks in a very talented draft class? I certainly think that would be the path to take.