Yikes. ESPN’s staff of NFL Nation reporters collaborated on a simulated offseason focused on quarterbacks around the league, and things didn’t go very well for the New Orleans Saints. ESPN’s Katherine Terrell did a great job of projecting how the Saints might approach various trade candidates and free agents around the league, but more than anything her efforts highlighted how few resources the Saints have to work with this year.
Terrell put together a trade package the Las Vegas Raiders found acceptable for Derek Carr — a combination of third- and fourth-round picks in 2023 — but the move was vetoed by Carr exercising his no-trade clause, allowing him to reach free agency and get a better contract from his choice of teams. Her contract offer for Carr was competitive to those submitted by various teams, but she wasn’t willing to match the money the New York Jets ponied up; a difference of $15 million in guarantees and $10 million per year.
That makes sense. But where do the Saints turn after missing out on Carr? Geno Smith was an easy re-sign with the Seattle Seahawks in this simulation, leaving Jimmy Garoppolo as the best remaining free agent. And ESPN’s analysts predict that Garoppolo would rather join his old coach Josh McDaniels on the Raiders than take more guaranteed money from New Orleans (a difference of $12 million), though Las Vegas promised a higher salary per year.
Which brought the Saints back to Dalton, who Terrell has New Orleans re-signing on a one-year deal with a fully-guaranteed $10 million. That’s anticlimactic and frustrating given how poorly the offense ran under his management last year, but it was probably the best move they could make in this situation. A second shoe dropped when this exercise got to the 2023 draft, though.
With five quarterback prospects being picked in the first 19 selections, the Saints were again left on the outside looking in at the end of the first round. Terrell saw an opportunity in round two, though, where she has the Saints picking former Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker. The vision would be for Dalton to bridge the gap until Hooker is ready to start — which could come sooner rather than later with the rookie expecting clearance to practice at training camp later this summer.
Running it back with last year’s mediocre starter and a draft pick coming off of a season-ending injury isn’t ideal. It also might be the only realistic path for the Saints right now given all of the hurdles in front of them. This team has real challenges in its way to playing competitive football again, so 2023 might be a year where they’re forced to settle for less than they’d like and wait until 2024 to try a big move.