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Saints might not be able to afford to wait on Russell Wilson

It might not be an issue of money, but rather an issue of time.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The 2022 New Orleans Saints will have two healthy quarterbacks on the active roster this offseason: rookie Ian Book and Blake Bortles, who recently signed a reserve/futures contract.

Taysom Hill will undergo multiple offseason surgeries so we can’t consider him “healthy”. Trevor Siemian is a free agent. Jameis Winston is both a free agent and recovering from surgeries.

The New Orleans Saints will have multiple question marks on the roster and positions they will need to address. Can they keep or extend Marcus Williams? Will PJ Williams finally get a pay day by the Saints or will he leave for greener pastures? Will the Saints shell out money for Terron Armstead or was 2021 his last season in New Orleans? Will this be the offseason where the team finally addresses the wide receiver position either in the draft or free agency?

First and foremost, the first question that needs to tackled is: Who will be the starting quarterback?

If the plan is to roll with Taysom Hill, then fine. At least you have the answer. But aside from how he looked against a struggling Falcons defense before getting injured in Week 18, his performance over the season should not bring about a ton of confidence in Taysom’s ability to be an NFL starting quarterback for 17 games a season.

There are plenty of other potential quarterbacks that would be available in either free agency, the draft, or via trade, and many Saints fans salivate over the options of players like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Kenny Pickett, or others, with Russell Wilson headlining many lists.

The only problem is that the Saints might not be able to afford Russell Wilson. No, this isn’t about not having the salary cap space, because Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football has already done an excellent job of explaining how the Saints can get under the salary cap without having to cut any players this offseason. No, this isn’t about not having the capital in a trade to pull it off, because the Saints have the 18th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, all of their picks for 2023 and beyond, and plenty of rostered players that might be enough to make a deal happen. Instead, this is about the one asset no one else is really talking about: Time.

Mickey Loomis and the Saints front office needs a plan for the 2022 offseason. They need to figure out what positions they need to address, the assets they have at their disposal to address them (in terms of draft picks, cap space, and player for trade), and then potential ways to use those assets to fill the positions of need on the 2022 roster. If the Saints plan on trading for a player like Russell Wilson, they will have to work out salary cap issues on their own team first, negotiate a deal with Seattle if Russell is reportedly available, and then finalize the trade.

While the Saints can get under the salary cap without too much issue, they do not have the luxury of tens of millions of dollars of extra cap space for wiggle room. If draft picks are used in a trade for Russell Wilson, that takes away the assets the team has to fill other positions of need (i.e. wide receiver). If a player is included in a trade, all that does is create another potential area of need that needs to be addressed in the draft or free agency.

If the Saints want to work out a trade for Russell Wilson, they might miss out on top tier free agents they could otherwise squeeze under the cap if Wilson were not on the team. If the Saints pass on certain players in free agency choosing to not overpay for a particular player with the understanding that they can hopefully find a player on a rookie deal in the draft, what happens if they then trade away that draft pick in a Russell Wilson trade? Or worst case: What if Jameis Winston signs somewhere else early in the offseason while the Saints pursue Russell Wilson, only for New Orleans to end up missing out on both?

Shoutout to Jameis1of1 here, but I’ve repeatedly gone on record and said that I think, in a vacuum, Russell Wilson presents a significantly higher upside for New Orleans over Jameis Winston. Russell is the splashy name that sells tickets. He’s the good-character guy who the New Orleans media can get behind. He’s a player who has proven he can perform at an MVP level over multi-season stretches and lead a defensive-minded team to a Super Bowl.

But New Orleans needs a plan for how to handle this offseason. If the plan is to bring Russell Wilson - or Aaron Rodgers, or *sigh* Jimmy Garoppolo - it needs to happen early. The Saints need to know how to fill out the rest of their team around their starting quarterback. Nailing down Jameis Winston as the 2022 starter, regardless of the upside differential between Jameis and Russell, might just be the safest (and possibly smartest) option for the Saints. Sign Jameis Winston early. Lock down who the starting quarterback will be. Fill out the rest of the roster with the cap space remaining and early round draft picks. Then go show the 2022 NFL world what a healthy Saints team can do.


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