Who will come marching in for the Saints?
Jameis Winston suffered a season-ending ACL injury on Sunday, leaving the Saints to turn to other options to continue their potential run to the playoffs in 2021.
The good news for the Saints: There are options, whether it’s in-house or on the street, to take snaps under center. The loudest calls have been for free agent Cam Newton, who is all vaccinated and ready to go.
Otherwise, the Saints could likely pick the boring option and stick with the two guys they have rostered to make it work for the rest of the 2021 NFL season. It’s risky, but likely not a playoff-winning formula.
Here’s how the Saints could approach their quarterback conundrum:
Saints quarterback options
Trevor Siemian-Taysom Hill tandem
Trevor Siemian is a solid stopgap passer and he performed well in Winston’s absence on Sunday’s win over the Bucs (16/29, 159 yards, one touchdown). Taysom Hill is set to return from a concussion for this Sunday’s matchup vs. the Falcons, missing two games (and the Bye week) while recovering from the head injury.
So, like the famed little girl from the Old El Paso taco shell commercial once asked: Why don’t we have both?
While the Saints turned to Hill over Winston in 2020 while Drew Brees dealt with an injury, that’s not likely to be the formula heading into the following weeks. Winston is out the rest of the season, and Hill would be asked to be the starter in that span. Or Siemian.
The 2020 Taysom Hill Experiment was fine, but not a major success. Hill was all over the place with the ball in his hands in 2020 (four passing touchdowns over five games as starting QB in 2020, with 834 yards), largely filling in as a mercurial but not great passer last season.
The Saints offense is at its best with Hill in that everyman role, so don’t expect that to change as they fight for the division the rest of the season.
Sign Cam Newton?
The early reports are that the Saints will look in-house in the immediate to solve the QB issue, but how long will that last?
Unlike 2020 when Brees was scheduled to return, the 2021 season will hinge on the depth at QB as Winston won’t be making a comeback this season. No one is confusing Siemian or Hill for a franchise QB, nor will the pairing likely pull the Saints to the Super Bowl, unless there’s some weird New Orleans voodoo working.
That’s why, unlike other teams with QB depth needs in the NFL, signing Cam Newton makes a lot of sense for the Saints. If there’s any head coach who can squeeze good football out of Newton, it’s Sean Payton, and his offensive staff that could help cater to Newton’s unique skillset the rest of the season.
With Newton’s dual-threat ability and Taysom Hill continuing a role as a Swiss army knife offensive player, an offense of Newton and Hill as a 1-2 punch is an enticing option, much more so than a pairing of Hill and Siemian.
What makes matters difficult: The Saints’ remaining schedule is tough, with games vs. Titans, Bills, Cowboys and Buccaneers left on the docket, and having to get a QB familiar and comfortable with a new offense is a tough ask.
To that end, it would make sense to bring in the best possible QB options the remainder of the season and not leave playoff hopes resting on a Siemian-Hill tag team. This isn’t about treading water for the Saints anymore.
Scour the trade market?
There are a number of intriguing options available for trade prior to Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline:
- Could a reunion with Teddy Bridgewater work? Bridgewater operated the offense well when Brees was out with an injury in 2019, leading to a big payday with the Panthers. There’s a world where that could work once again, especially with the Broncos seeming resigned to breaking it down.
- The Bears have a pretty bloated QB room now, with both Andy Dalton and Nick Foles sitting behind QB1 Justin Fields.
- What about Mike White? The Jets wouldn’t be willing to part with a future franchise quarterback, would they? (Well, maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.)
Visit the retirement home
There are a pair of quarterbacks who are currently sitting on the couch who might be able to lock into a role, if that’s the route that the Saints could entertain.
— Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported that Philip Rivers might be an option for the Saints. Rivers had made it clear that he could entertain a return to the field following the high school football season. The high-school football season, coincidentally, ended on Friday night.
“I want to make sure I’m very clear: I’m not predicting I will play in December or January, for that matter,” Rivers said in August. “One, you’ve got to have somebody who wants you, and two, it’s got to be right. But I have not completely ruled that out (returning).”
It sure sounds like there could be some potential there.
— Could Drew Brees make a return to the Saints sidelines? There’s a better chance of canonization.
Brees was extremely uncomfortable breaking down New Orleans’ offense during the “Manning Night Football,” and squirmed on Sunday night when faced with the question by host Mike Tirico.
“I’ll be there Saturday to call the Notre Dame-Navy game, and I’ll be here Sunday,” Brees said during halftime of the “Sunday Night Football” matchup between the Cowboys and the Vikings, seemingly squashing any report that he may come back.
Brees, 42, showed in 2020 that he didn’t necessarily have the arm anymore to operate the Saints offense, and after sitting on the couch (and getting a new hairdo) for the last six months, that’s probably something that won’t change in the next week.
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