For what has been too long now, the New Orleans Saints have been on the precipice of a need for a new quarterback. Many in the media have been expecting Drew Brees to retire in the near future, and there is very clearly no succession plan in place for the black and gold: Garrett Grayson didn’t pan out as expected, and Luke McCown is not a viable starting option for a team that will be trying to propel itself back into playoff contention again after a few years outside of the arena.. Drew Brees will be a free agent in 2018, and that will likely signal the end of his career. This creates a large need for the Saints, who have been struggling in recent years. It would be best to implement this quarterback into the system now, while Brees is still around, and ensure that the replacement is confident in his abilities when the 2018 season comes around. Below are some listed options that could benefit the Saints.
Nick Foles, Kansas City Chiefs
Foles is best known for his incredible season with the Eagles in 2013, when he threw 27 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions in 10 starts after Michael Vick suffered an injury. He thrived in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo, quick-hitting offense, and benefited from LeSean McCoy, Desean Jackson, and a strong tight end group. Just as Kelly’s offense worked well in 2013, it suffered in 2014, as did Foles’ play: He threw for 13 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a 59.8% completion rate. He moved on to play for the Rams in 2015, and didn’t play well in 11 starts. He worked as a backup for the Chiefs, and has one more year remaining on his contract. While the Chiefs may look away from Alex Smith, it is unlikely that they will need to hold onto Foles, as there are 4 quarterbacks on the roster right now. Foles should ask for a trade to a team where he could succeed with strong offense weapons like Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks, and Mark Ingram.
Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots
Seemingly the hottest name in the trade mill right now, Garoppolo had a sort of audition during Tom Brady’s 4 game suspension. In a game and two quarters, he compiled 71% completion rate, 496 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and even caught a deflected pass for 3 yards. Garoppolo is widely praised by many people in the media and in some front offices as well, and will be highly sought after in the offseason. With reports that the Patriots are looking for nothing less than a first round pick for the backup, the Saints would have to pay up, but it just may be worth it.
AJ McCarron, Cincinnati Bengals
A lesser demanded commodity on the trade market, McCarron has performed well in limited duties as a reserve starter for the Bengals. After Andy Dalton suffered a hand injury in 2015, McCarron took his spot, posting a 66% completion rate, 854 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions while going 2-1 as the starter. He was good enough to hold down the fort, and could likely be a starter in the right situation. While the Saints may not have the correct talent around them to allow McCarron to do his job, it would be worth it to attempt an experiment with him at the helm.
In Free Agency
This is likely the most attractive option for the team, although Cousins likely wouldn’t sign while Brees is still playing. Kirk Cousins has been a revelation for the Redskins, who thought they would be lost without Robert Griffin III starting. He replaced the former Rookie of the Year and eventually became the full time starter for the team in 2015. Cousins led the team to a playoff berth that year, while throwing over 4,100 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He fared about the same this past season, posting almost 5,000 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. One of his staples was the deep balls to Desean Jackson, and he could easily develop a similar rapport with Brandin Cooks. The Saints couldn’t go wrong with signing Cousins, but it is unlikely considering Brees’ contract status.
The more known of these next two choices, Gabbert is not an ideal pick for the Saints, but he is good enough to be carried by his teammates. Sure, he had problems in San Francisco this past season, but look at his offense around him. Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick’s best targets this season were Jeremy Kerley (64 catches) and Quinton Patton (37). Before being benched for the controversial QB behind him, Gabbert 925 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions with a 56% completion rate in 5 games. The Saints could do much worse than Gabbert leading the offense, and he would not be a terrible choice.
A more unknown choice would be the Jets’ forgotten man, Geno Smith. The former West Virginia Mountaineer hasn’t been the team’s full time starter since 2014, before Ryan Fitzpatrick came to town. This is arguably the worst possible option for the Saints, as Geno Smith’s career stats read as follows: 33 games, 58% completion rate, 5,962 yards, 28 touchdowns, 36 interceptions. This is not what you would like to see from a possible starting quarterback. While the statline looks ugly, it cannot all be blamed on Smith, as the talent surrounding him was often subpar. It remains to be seen whether or not he can really exist as a full-time successful starting QB, but maybe New Orleans gives him that opportunity.
Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech
Mahomes is a prospect that has risen as of late, with some projecting him as a top 20 pick in the coming NFL Draft. While some may knock him for coming from Kliff Kingsbury’s “Air Raid” offense, it also teaches him how to make pre-snap coverage reads, which is a vital part of the game of football. He succeeded in the Red Raiders’ offense, with a 66% completion rate, a shade over 5,000 yards, 41 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He also beat out Davis Webb for the starting job in the 2014 season. Mahomes is one of the most intriguing quarterbacks in the 2017 draft, and he and his arm would fit extremely well in the Saints’ offense.
Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh
A recent riser in this week’s Senior Bowl, Peterman is an interesting prospect. He performed extremely well in his last season as a Panther, throwing 27 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. He has a decent arm and could likely be a team leader in the coming years. He enjoyed having a star running back in James Conner with him, and the prospect of working with Ingram, as well as the young receivers, would be a great benefit for him. An ideal situation for Peterman would be to sit behind an established starter with a strong coach, which New Orleans has in Brees and Sean Payton. One of the better draft prospects in this year’s draft, he is likely a second or third round pick, and the team that selects him will not be let down in the coming years.
Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
Another top performer from Mobile, Dobbs was able to successfully beat out Peterman for the starting job, forcing him to transfer to Pittsburgh. Dobbs had a similar season to the Panthers’ quarterback, tossing 27 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, while completing 63% of his passes. Many may knock him for his lanky frame, but he has been an impressive starter for the Volunteers. Being one of the lesser talented teams in the SEC, Tennessee as a whole played well, and had a strong group of talent with players such as Alvin Kamara, Jalen Hurd, Jaylen Maybin, and Derek Barnett. Widely lauded for his intelligence being an aeronautics major, Dobbs will blow interviewers away at the combine, and his offensive knowledge is there as well. He will likely be selected in the third or fourth round, and he will need some time to hone his skills behind a more talented quarterback. New Orleans would be a great situation for Josh Dobbs.