As Drew Brees has given hints about his potential retirement over the past week, the New Orleans Saints are still waiting on the official decision from their future Hall of Fame quarterback. The Saints franchise will change drastically if Brees retires, having to seek a new starting quarterback for the first time in 15 seasons.
New Orleans is $93 million over the salary cap with Brees' contract still on the books, which leaves no room to actually upgrade at quarterback in free agency. The Saints have Taysom Hill under contract while Jameis Winston is set to be a free agent (although it won't cost much for New Orleans to bring him back regardless of the salary cap situation). One of those two will likely be leading the Saints in 2021 if Brees decides not to return, as head coach Sean Payton still remains confident in both Hill and Winston.
"I'm real confident in the players. We have a real good room. I'm excited about Jameis Winston, I'm excited about Taysom Hill," Payton said to reporters at his end-of-season press conference Thursday. "Those are guys that we've had a chance, obviously, to see for a period of time. Not as long, maybe not as much time with Jameis. But I think that we will handle it accordingly. I mean, that position is important. It's vital."
The Saints will have a decision to make regarding Hill and Winston as the two will engage in an offseason battle to be the starting quarterback should Brees make his retirement official. Payton chose Hill over Winston this year and has a good sample size of the Saints offense under Hill, who completed 71.9% of his passes for 834 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing 39 times for 209 yards (5.36 yards per carry) with four touchdowns in four games. Hill recorded a 96.9 passer rating in his four starts as the Saints went 3-1 during that stretch.
Winston threw just 11 passes in the regular season, but threw a 56-yard touchdown pass in the Saints' NFC divisional round loss to the Buccaneers. His understanding of the offense over the past year may give Payton enough confidence to start Winston in 2021.
Or maybe Payton will play both quarterbacks. The Saints have options over the next several months.
"And that's why we paid attention to, like an offseason signing like Jameis or paid attention to keeping Taysom here. We knew there's a chance at some point in time, we'll be dealing with a transition," Payton said. "And we're going to try to be as prepared as we can when that time comes in. So, I really like the prospects of those players, and having seen them up close and personal."