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Analyzing the New Orleans Saints’ offense heading into free agency

(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Quarterback

Initially, I was planning to write about the Saints’ options at the quarterback position, but in researching for such a piece, something become abundantly clear: they have very few logical options.

This is an organization in transition right now, so it wouldn’t make sense to mortgage draft capital for a quarterback not named Deshaun Watson. Even then, they certainly wouldn’t be able to put together the best package in terms of compensation.

Plus, they don’t have the cap space to afford him or any productive veteran quarterback.

In the draft? Picking 28th overall is a difficult position to be in, and unless Justin Fields starts to slip, I don’t believe it would be advisable to go all-in on an FCS quarterback in Trey Lance or Alabama’s Mac Jones, although both will likely be productive quarterbacks at the next level.

A move like that may make sense for a team with a deep roster like the Colts, but right now, New Orleans needs to be adding picks, not continuing to go all-in.

In the end, the Saints’ three options at the quarterback position are: Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, or a quarterback by committee. Hill started over Winston in 2020, but averaged just 6.6 yards/attempt in his final three games as a starter, fumbled three times, and also took 13 sacks.

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Those aren’t exactly exciting numbers, particularly since Payton crafted an offense completely tailored to him with a lot of high-percentage early-down play-action passes and a simplified offense.

Thus, there is no doubt that Winston is a better quarterback. As we’ve touched on in the past, Winston ranks as an above-average quarterback in terms of expected points added (EPA) per play since entering the league as a starter in 2015, and has played in several unfavorable schemes.

His ability to throw for a significant amount of air yards, rather than being reliant on yardage after the catch, makes him much more scheme-diverse, and with the Saints’ roster in transition, that is certainly a bonus.

Mainly, though, you’re getting the chance to acquire a talented quarterback for a low salary simply because of turnover concerns, when some of those turnovers have come due to systems he has been apart of.

If Payton can slightly lower his average depth of target and create more easy passes for him by virtue of simply better schematics (more play-action passes, better route concepts), the upside is tremendous, while the floor is a productive player.

If anyone would utilize a quarterback by committee approach, it’s Payton. However, Hill is a significant downgrade to Winston, so you’re just promoting a less-efficient offense by putting him in, outside of short-yardage situations.

If the Saints let Winston leave the building, they’ve failed their offseason. Not only is he the only talented quarterback they can reasonably acquire, but the “upside” with him matching with Payton is something that needs to be tested.

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