The QB Tree
At this point there is a “coaching tree” of quarterbacks that the Saints have either used draft capital on or have been rumoured to want. Most notably, the Saints were expected to draft Patrick Mahomes had Marshon Lattimore not been available.
Had the Saints drafted Patrick Mahomes, the NFL would be very different today. Even though Patrick Mahomes is perhaps the favorite to win the MVP, if not Brees, the Saints clearly made the right decision in not drafting him. Why? I’m sure at the very least your thinking the Saints 2018 super bowl odds increase by taking Mahomes out of KC, but that is not the case. Had the Saints drafted Mahomes their offense remains unchanged with him on the bench, whilst their horrid pass defense, becomes even more so with the absence of Lattimore.
Drafting Mahomes would also lead the Saints to not draft Marcus Davenport, and instead a cornerback assuming they don’t want their 3-deep to be- Ken Crawley, P.J. Williams, and Justin Hardee -almost certainly the least star-studded corner trio in the league. To conclude, keep in mind Patrick Mahomes is the best-case qb they could’ve drafted by far, and they would be a worst team had they drafted him. In case you're wondering the Saints would’ve had to trade a similar draft capital as they did for Davenport to get corner Jaire Alexander- and would have to hope he’s better than Marshon Lattimore to get close to evening the gap made had they drafted Mahomes. Had the Saints stuck with the 27th pick they would’ve probably gotten Mike Hughes, who is already on IR.
The right-hand side would produce nothing on field for remaining of 2018 had they not moved a 2019 1st or 2nd rounder for Jaire Alexander (Hughes on IR, and Mahomes on bench). Lattimore is the Saints #1 CB and the reigning NFL rookie of the year on defense. Davenport has been better than Alexander, and has a higher-ceiling for the future.
Saints traded a 2019 4th round pick + 2020 7th round pick to Giants for CB Eli Apple. This trade occurred because Crawley and P.J. Williams weren’t good enough to guard NFL team’s #2 and #3 wideouts. Imagine if Crawley and P.J. were the Saints #1 and #2 corners before this trade. That would likely be the case had the Saints drafted Patrick Mahomes.
Had the Saints drafted Lamar Jackson, the best they could hope is that he contributes close to that of Taysom Hill. A majority of the media and fans wanted the Saints to select Jackson when they traded up in the draft. Had that happened the Saints would’ve just used the same draft capital on a higher-ceiling version of the team’s 3rd-string quarterback, as they did for rising-star Marcus Davenport. In addition to the Saints hurting their defense without improving their offense had they made this selection (Jackson), they would’ve likely had to gone defense instead of drafting Tre’Quan Smith- who had 2 touchdown catches in week 5, one of which was shipped to the hall of fame (Drew Brees all-time passing yards record). Which reminds me that this article is about Drew Brees just as much as it is about the Saints. Even if the Saints stayed at pick #27 and selected Lamar Jackson, this would still mean that the Saints would likely have had to select a defensive player instead of Smith, because otherwise they would’ve had to wait until the 4th round to draft defense, and 0 Saints drafted after the third round made the initial 53 man roster. With Ted Ginn on IR, that Smith pick is looking very important. Brought into fruition, Smith and Davenport were the only drafted players that made the roster (Boston Scott and Will Clapp are on practice squad) and by drafting Jackson the Saints would likely have neither. In conclusion the Saints could’ve had a 2018 draft class with zero production on the field had they done what the media wanted them to do.
Davenport + Smith > Lamar Jackson + 3rd round defender
Davenport + Smith > Lamar Jackson + Smith + 4th round defender
Even had the Saints followed up drafting Jackson with drafting Tre’Quan Smith, they would’ve been better off with the decision of drafting Davenport and Smith. The Saints 4th round pick would’ve likely not made the team since in actuality that is what happened. You’d also have to have a cold-heart to want to taint with the beautiful moment of Brees’s 62-yard record-setting td pass to Smith and what followed afterwards.
The Saints badly messed up by drafting Garrett Grayson (mentioned in part two) in the third round, and the Saints decision to trade a third-rounder for Bridgewater is only a little more acceptable under one precaution- he elects to stay this offseason. Bridgewater has a $2.3 million cap hit this season, but the Saints would almost certainly have to pay more to secure him as a back-up in 2019.
Drew Brees isn’t going to retire after winning MVP, a second Super Bowl, and people need to understand that. The current Saints are built to last when it comes to being a Super-Bowl contender. Drew Brees said he wants to play to 45 a few seasons ago and recently, in 2018, noted that it’s still a possibility. A betting man should assume that he’ll likely hang the cleats up a little earlier than 45, at say 42 or 43, and that’s the approach I believe the Saints should take. As it stands, Teddy Bridgewater will likely command offers between $10-15 million in free agency, maybe more. Most people would agree to rather having Bridgewater than Mike Glennon, and yet Glennon got a 3-year, $45 contract from Chicago in 2017, despite zero starts in the prior two seasons. QB contracts are constantly inflating, and the Saints can’t possibly afford to pay Bridgewater more than 5-8 million and still expect to extend actual starters- Ingram, Te’o, Crawley, P.J. Williams, Davison, Lutz- let alone Pro Bowl wide-receiver Michael Thomas who’ll likely ask for a hefty extension. Therefore the Saints may have just thrown away a 3rd round pick by drafting Bridgewater. If they get the sense that he’ll walk in free agency, hopefully they can trade him for a 3rd round pick back- which would allow the Saints to walk out a slight-winner in the trade for Bridgewater.
3rd round pick > Teddy Bridgewater’s impending contract to back-up Drew Brees
How the Saints Should Plan for Post-Brees Era
How I see it is that the Saints aren’t going to win the super bowl in year 1 post-Brees so why pay(Draft/Trade/Free agency) for players that make it harder for Brees to win a second super bowl in New Orleans, while he’s still around. Even with the talent around Brees on offense, an average quarterback would likely fail to reach the playoffs due to a predictably weak/average defense in the near future. If Drew Brees retires after the 2020 season, a likely time-frame, they could trade up for Trevor Lawrence, who scouts have called the best QB recruit of the past 10 seasons, and is already better than most NFL Quarterbacks according to Trent Dilfer (a former QB). Or they could play an entire season with Taysom Hill before drafting a top-notch QB early in the first round. Regardless of whether you like this idea or not, it’s more than likely there is no smooth route to the post-Brees era, so the Saints should put every ounce of effort/draft capital/cap room into getting the players Brees needs to deliver another championship. In other words, I’m suggesting that Mickey Loomis and Gael Benson treat Brees like Lebron in terms of giving him the reigns of the GM, and I’m perfectly okay with saying that. Additionally if Brees retires after the 2019 season they would have to trade less to get Lawrence, because they’d likely have a higher draft pick after a season led by a different QB. The 2011 Colts went 2-14 the year that Peyton Manning was lost due to a neck injury/surgery, even though the roster still included three potential future NFL HOFers in Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and Robert Mathis. Drew Brees is currently the only player on the Saints destined for the Hall, and given the decline the Colts had from AFC South champs to NFL’s worst in one season before receiving Andrew Luck as a consolation, The Saints have reason to hope for a similar turnaround once their G.O.A.T. retires.
P.S. I understand that Peyton didn’t retire after his neck injury but I’d hope you get the point that the Saints could draft a stud once Brees is no longer around.