Drew Brees could be playing his last season in the NFL in 2020. Even if he were to decide to return in 2021, he will be 44 and definitely out of the league by 2023. So who will the New Orleans Saints have at Quarterback for the 2023 season? Whoever it is will most likely still be leading one of the best rosters in the NFL as Brees is the only major contributor nearing retirement. The Saints have three options moving forward to find their Quarterback of the future. Either they move forward with one of the other QBs currently on the roster, sign or trade for a QB who is currently in the NFL, or select one in an upcoming draft.
Option 1: Currently on Roster
The most likely in-house candidate to take over for Brees is Jameis Winston. The former Seminole is only on a 1-year contract with the Saints, but if Brees were to retire it would be in the Saints best interest to try and sign Winston to a long-term deal. Jameis is the most talented passer on the roster other than Brees, is only 26 years old, and would have had a year to learn the offense. If Brees stays healthy and winds up stepping away after the 2020 season, I would say Jameis Winston will be the Saints QB for the foreseeable future, if he agrees to a contract.
The other in-house candidate to replace Brees would be Taysom Hill. Hill is not as good a passer as Winston and is also 3 years older, but if Winston were to decline to re-sign with the Saints next season, Hill could be the safest option for the Saints to take over for Brees. Hill has had ample time to develop chemistry with the offense and obviously has the trust and praise of head coach Sean Payton. If Winston were to leave and the Saints were unable to afford a free agent QB or draft one that they like, we could see Taysom Hill leading the Saints offense into the 2023 season.
I see Taysom Hill trending. He told me Super Bowl week: "I definitely view myself as a franchise QB. .. If New Orleans don't view me that way then I have to leave." Also he loves playing with Drew Brees, hopes to continue doing so. Full interview: https://t.co/CZvuLzPHyQ pic.twitter.com/KQLpsWuYAH— Rob Maaddi (@RobMaaddi) February 10, 2020
However, I feel this is even less likely than the Saints drafting or signing a QB for the 2023 season. Hill will be 33 in 2023 and is still unproven as a passer. Even if he were to be the Saints starting QB next year should neither Brees or Winston return, it is likely the Saints will look for a more reliable long-term option.
Option 2: Currently in the NFL
The other choice the Saints have for their QB of the future is to sign one in free agency, or to trade with another team for one. Most QBs in the NFL (except for future billionaire Patrick Mahomes) will have their contracts expire at some point between now and 2023, so the Saints will have a lot of options, but they may not be the quality that they were hoping for. A starting caliber QB would have to slip through the cracks and become a free agent before 2023 for the Saints to feel comfortable going forward with a free agent signing at QB, and unfortunately, their options will be somewhat limited.
The best QB I could see as a possibility for the Saints to sign in free agency would be Deshaun Watson. Watson is a star QB for the Texans and it seems unlikely that they would willingly let him leave. However, the Texans could be headed for a rebuild sooner than we think. Bill O’Brien has been no stranger to trading away quality players, and should these trades not pan out, the Texans may be forced to blow up the roster.
Watson will be a free agent in 2022 so the verdict on O’Brien and the future of the Texans will most likely be decided by then. It is unlikely however, even if they decide to rebuild, that Houston would let Watson, who will be 26 at the time, leave for another team. However, Watson will still be in his prime and may not want to waste his best years on a team in the middle of a rebuild, so it is not entirely out of the question that he may want to come to a team with some promise such as the Saints.
Other Quarterbacks who are less likely to resign with their current teams who the Saints could target include names like Jimmy Garoppolo, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Darnold.
Jimmy G will be a free agent in 2023, but will also be 31 years old. The 49ers would most likely not be eager to resign him, especially if they can manage to keep their Super Bowl caliber roster in tact, in favor of a younger option. The Saints could target Garoppolo for a short-term deal if they are unable to find another quality option.
Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold are both young QBs who are good but not great. They each play well but their teams continue to struggle, so they could look for other options once each of their contracts run out in 2022. Unlikely as it is, should either become a free agent, they are both young enough to be considered a long term option in the 2023 season and beyond. If the Saints feel good about either, or another free agent QB of a similar age and skill set, they may move forward with this option.
Option 3: Draft
The Saints third option to find a QB for 2023 is to draft one. Barring a trade, or the most disastrous season in Saints history relative to the expectations, they will not get the chance to draft either Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields in the 2021 draft. Other than Fields and Lawrence however, the QB options in the 2021 draft are pretty limited. Other QBs in the upcoming draft will be North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, Iowa State’s Brock Purdy, or Georgia’s Jamie Newman.
These options do not seem all that appealing at first glance, but should Brees and Winston both leave, and the Saints not comfortable with Taysom Hill taking over, they could be the best alternative for New Orleans.
Lance is coming off a season in which he did not throw a single interception, and led the Bison to an undefeated season and yet another FCS Championship. He could wind up being the best value pick of the 2021 draft as he has the upside to be a perennial pro-bowler, which means the Saints will most likely have to trade up in order to select him.
Brock Purdy and Jamie Newman are not currently projected to be first round picks, but as Joe Burrow proved last season, mock drafts can change between now and draft day. Purdy threw for just under 4,000 yards and 27 TDs last season while Newman threw for over 2,800 yards and 26 TDs before transferring to Georgia from Wake Forest. Both should be available for the Saints to draft without a trade, but neither seem to be the long term solution to replace Drew Brees at this moment.
Targets for the Saints in the 2022 draft could be UNC’s Sam Howell, Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, USC’s Kedon Slovis, ASU’s Jayden Daniels, or Auburn’s Bo Nix. Rattler and Howell may prove to be out of the Saints reach as, even with Taysom Hill or any other placeholder QB they chose to sign for the 2021 season, they still have a roster good enough to not earn the top 8 pick potentially needed to select either QB.
Slovis is coming off a 3,500 yard 30 TD freshman season for the Trojans, and could be available for the Saints in the middle of the first round. Jayden Daniels threw for 2900 yards and only 2 INTs in 2019 and led Arizona State to an upset victory over #6 Oregon last season. Bo Nix had a decent freshman campaign for Auburn, but was unable to beat any of the top competition in the SEC save for a Tua-less Alabama in the Iron Bowl. He still has upside but will need to prove himself up to the competition in the SEC before he merits first or even second round consideration.
Potential QBs for the 2023 draft are all yet to play a down of college football. The top recruits for the 2020 season include names like DJ Uiagalelei of Clemson, CJ Stroud of Ohio State, Bryce Young of Alabama, or Hudson Card of Texas. Only time will tell if any of these names become stars in college football or wind up in New Orleans.
So who has the best odds to be the Saints QB in in 2023? Right now I would give it to Jameis Winston, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that he does not return after this season. The Saints would then need to find another option and quick in order to preserve their championship window.
Right now, I would break down the percent chance to be the Saints QB in 2023 like this:
Jamies Winston: 50%
2022 Draft pick: 15%
Free Agent signing/Trade: 12%
Taysom Hill: 8%
2023 Draft pick: 8%
2021 Draft Pick: 7%
Who do you think the Saints QB will be in 2023? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @HaydenReel.