It's never too early for the New Orleans Saints to start looking ahead, and Saints fans may not even have to look far to see how bright their future can be.
New Orleans Saints fans everywhere have been clamoring for the next great Saints quarterback since the retirement of Drew Brees after the 2020 season. Since then, the New Orleans franchise has started six different quarterbacks over the course of the last three seasons.
This past offseason, head coach Dennis Allen went back to the well in signing Derek Carr, a quarterback drafted by the then-Oakland Raiders at the time Allen was their head coach in 2014. Carr was signed to a four-year 150 million dollar contract, of which 100 million dollars was guaranteed. Needless to say, Carr hasn't provided Who Dat Nation with quarterback play to justify that dollar amount, as the Saints currently have the 19th ranked scoring offense in the NFL and the seventh-worst red-zone offense in football.
The Saints certainly don't lack for weapons either. After a brief suspension to start the year, Alvin Kamara provides a dual-threat talent at the running back position. Chris Olave is one of the better young wide receivers in the league, and Rashid Shaheed continues his ascension from undrafted free agent to solid NFL contributor. Elsewhere, Michael Thomas played more games this season with Carr at quarterback than the last two seasons combined, and Taysom Hill is a jack-of-all-trade weapon on the offensive end that gives the Saints a power running game for short yardage and goal-line situations. Granted, Juwan Johnson has been a disappointment at tight end, after showing flashes of clicking with Derek Carr over the summer, but he's no slouch.
The ire of most Saints fans, at least that which is not directed at Carr himself, goes to embattled offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael. It is hard to truly access the new quarterback in a Saints jersey with such incompetent offensive play-calling. Carmichael has been extremely unimaginative in his gameplans and has the inability to scheme his playmakers open. Therefore, most of the Saints passing game relies on Kamara or the wide receivers to consistently win their one-on-one matchups. In addition, Carmichael is guilty of deplorable situational play-calling, with downfield shots on short-yardage situations and early checkdowns on longer down and distances. Needless to say, the combination of Carr and Carmichael has been an immense failure this season.
The key to the upcoming future success of the Saints franchise lies in its upcoming decision regarding coaching and the quarterback position. It is clear that both Pete Carmichael and Dennis Allen are not the coaches to lead the Saints to their next contention window. Due to this, any new coach, especially an offensive one, is going to want a guarantee to move on from Carr and bring in his own choice at quarterback as soon as possible. A thorough review of Carr's contract shows that the team is stuck with him at quarterback for at least through the 2024 season, as releasing him after this year would net over 50 million dollars in dead cap. However, the Saints can get out of his contract after two seasons with only a 17 million dead cap in 2025, Therefore, the thought of drafting a quarterback this season, along with a complete coaching staff overhaul, comes into play in regards to the 2024 NFL Draft.
In the past, the Saints have shown no preference towards former LSU players in the NFL Draft. This year, the answer to the future of the New Orleans franchise lives 60 miles down I-10. Jayden Daniels is a prototype for the future of football at the quarterback position. Daniels has great size at 6'4" with excellent speed and a strong arm to make all the necessary throws. What Jalen Hurts brings to the Philadelphia Eagles with power running, Daniels could provide to the Saints in elusive yards gained on the ground in high-pressure moments, as he has consistently done at LSU for the last two seasons. The Saints own their own first round pick in the 2024 NFL draft and have a legitimate chance for that pick to fall in the top half of the first round.
Projecting Daniels on a Saints offense under new leadership is easy to do when you take into account the weapons previously mentioned. A Daniels-Olave pairing would be one of the best young QB-WR combinations in the NFL, as many of the positive attributes of Olave himself mirror that of current LSU star wide receiver Malik Nabors. In addition, Daniels accuracy on deep throws would bode well for the improving Shaheed, whose speed in the NFL is only surpassed by Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill. In addition, Kamara would give Daniels a veteran receiving back and current rookie Kendre Miller could develop into a power runner he was drafted to be. Both backs would benefit from Daniels behind center, as zone-reads and the threat of him running himself will freeze linebackers and safeties just enough to make the running game that much more effective. Also, as seen at LSU, Daniels has the ability to take over a game and use his legs to pick up first downs in high leverage situations.
The balance of power in the NFL has shifted in recent years to the AFC. The Kansas City Chiefs are in the midst of a dynasty with star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, followed closely by heavyweights in the Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, and, when healthy, the Joe Burrow-led Cincinnati Bengals. The NFC, on the other hand, specifically the NFC South, is there for the taking. Bryce Young looks overwhelmed on a deplorable Carolina Panthers roster, and both the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not yet solved the quarterback dilemma the Saints currently find themselves in. Adding a quarterback of Daniels' stature would vault the Saints to the top of the division and put them in contention with the likes of the top teams in the conference.
It's time for the New Orleans Saints to finally get their next franchise quarterback, and they don't even have to leave the state of Louisiana to get it done!