Saints look to make changes after disappointing playoff finish

Jude Papillion, Sports Editor

Following their loss in the divisional round against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints are looking to make improvements for 2021 and beyond during the offseason, starting with the quarterback position.

On Feb. 5, Drew Brees restructured his contract with the Saints, reducing his 2021 salary from $25 million to the veterans minimum of $1.075 million. This is the latest sign that Drew Brees is getting ready to announce his retirement from the Saints after spending 20 seasons in the NFL. The 42-year-old quarterback is yet to announce his plans for the upcoming 2021 season, but speculation of Brees’ retirement has been ongoing for months. 

If Brees were to retire, the Saints and Brees would wait until after Jun. 1 to file his paperwork for retirement in order to spread his remaining salary-cap costs over the next two seasons. If he were to retire, Brees would make $11.15 million in dead money from the cap this season and another $11.5 million next year for a total of $22.65 million.

In place of Drew Brees, many people expect the Saints to bring back free agent quarterback Jameis Winston. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Saints reached out to Winston’s camp about a new contract. Winston is intrigued by what both the Saints and the free agency carousel might have in store, so the quarterback will look at his other options before making any deals. 

In 2020, Winston only threw 11 passes as quarterback of the Saints. While he only threw for 75 yards on seven completions this season, Winston has thrown for 19,812 yards, 121 touchdowns, and 88 picks in his six years in the NFL. 

Winston has thrown for 19,812 yards, 121 touchdowns, and 88 picks in his six years in the NFL. (Cecilia Hammond)

Winston, however, is not the only option to replace Drew Brees. The Saints still have two more quarterbacks, Taysom Hill and practice squad quarterback Trevor Siemian, under contract. The team also currently holds the 28th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and many experts currently expect them to draft Mac Jones with their first round pick. Jones, the former quarterback of the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide threw 402 passes in his junior season at Alabama, completing 311 of them for a remarkably high 77.4% pass completion percentage. Jones also threw for 41 touchdowns with just four interceptions and amassed 4500 passing yards. If drafted by the Saints, Jones should be able to adjust to the Saints offense quickly. At Alabama, Jones avoided error and made stellar passes as the facilitator of the Crimson Tide’s offense, with weapons such as Najee Harris and Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith. With the Saints, Jones could upgrade those weapons with the likes of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.  

The Saints have many potential options going forward — returning next season with Brees, promoting a roster quarterback such as Winston, drafting a quarterback or making moves in free agency. Regardless of the decision the Saints make, fans can remain confident behind their offensive weapons, Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis on defense and Sean Payton’s phenomenal coaching.