METAIRI, La. -No, quarterback Drew Brees has not officially announced his retirement. And yes, Russell Wilson’s agent has identified the New Orleans Saints as his preferred destination, should he be traded.

But if you want to manage the Saints’ quarterback field in 2021, Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill remain the favorites to take the job this summer.

Of course, the Saints might consider a sensational move like. B. make a pick for Wilson (if he becomes available) or move up more than 20 spots in the NFL draft to get a top 5 QB. The position is important enough to weigh all scenarios.

But Winston and Hill are the most realistic and affordable options. More importantly, the Saints are confident they can develop into a playoff caliber offense.

Here’s a closer look at the New Orleans options:

Is there a possibility that Bree may stay?

Only if he changes his mind. So far, Brees and the team have acted like he’s retiring at 42. Last month, he dropped his salary to a veteran minimum of $1.075 million to make as much room as possible on the Saints’ payroll. And the team approached the free agency like they had a vacancy to fill.

Unless a deal is struck or Drew Brees changes his mind, it’s unlikely the Saints will acquire Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill as quarterback. Jared K. Tilton/Getty Images

Of course, it’s possible that Brees might change his mind. That’s actually what he did last year, when he was about to retire, before he decided to come back. But sources advise not dwelling too much on the fact that Brees’ coach Todd Durkin posted a video of last week’s practice (we’ll be watching game videos like this for a long time to come when Brees is no longer in the game). And it won’t surprise you that Brees is taking his time making that decision. He always paid attention to the process in everything he did.

Trade for a superstar?

If Wilson wants to come to New Orleans, the Saints (and the mayor of New Orleans) will welcome him with open arms. And they will make an aggressive offer, even though they were still about $60 million above the estimated salary cap on Tuesday. The same goes for Deshaun Watson if he becomes available via a trade. If the Saints are going to trade or fire some of their current starters, they will do so to attract an elite quarterback.

However, there are two problems. At this point, neither the Seattle Seahawks nor the Houston Texans are openly looking for Wilson and Watson, so it’s unlikely a deal will be struck before the start of Free Agency. The big obstacle is that the Saints can’t offer a top pick or a young QB in development in return.

Other quarterbacks could become available on the trade market depending on the league president’s ranking – it could be Teddy Bridgewater, Jimmy Garoppolo, Marcus Mariota, Sam Darnold or Tua Tagovailoa. Obviously, the Saints like Bridgewater after he spent two years in New Orleans, and they liked Garoppolo in the draft. But Bridgewater owed $39 million over the next two years, while Garoppolo owed more than $50 million over the next two years.

The Saints can re-contract Winston in Free Agency for a much lower price without having to give up draft picks to acquire him. It will be hard to push them past someone who is not an elite upgrade.

Accommodation for Winston

Coach Sean Payton has made it clear that the Saints want Winston back in free agency after he spent a year as a reserve in the building last season. Not only was Payton enamored with Winston’s immense arm talent (which he showed with a 56-yard pass on a trick play in New Orleans during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ playoff run), he also called Winston a fantastic leader.

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Of course, Winston’s game has known weaknesses, including accuracy issues and an epidemic of turnovers. But he was selected in the first round of the 2015 draft for a reason; he led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards in 2019; and he just turned 27 in January. He also took steps to improve his game, including LASIK eye surgery, a better diet and fitness – and he made the humbling decision to come to New Orleans to study under Payton and Bree for a year.

Winston isn’t sure, but he probably has as much potential as any Saints that have come into the team this year. He’ll have to win the Hill job in training camp. But the fact that he’s younger than Hill, 30, with a higher ceiling – and that Hill can still be used in his versatile runner/receiver role – could give Winston an advantage.

Housing for the hill

All the good things Payton has said about Winston are nothing compared to the praise Payton has given Hill over the years. However, Hill failed to establish himself and lose his grip on the position long-term when he started 3-1 last season while Brees was injured.

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Hill was better as a passer than most outsiders expected. He has thrown 71.9 percent for 834 yards, four TDs and two interceptions in those four starts. But he should improve his anticipation and decision-making once he gets past the first or second reading. And he certainly needs to improve his ball security after losing 10 times, including five times in 2020. Most of his problems were due to keeping the ball in the pocket too long, which is surprising given his exceptional running ability.

However, all of that could improve with more experience, especially since he hasn’t played regular quarterback since his senior year at BYU in 2016. Payton and Hill could have made better use of Hill’s legs by developing more runs or by letting him get out of the way faster. The only downside to this approach is the risk of injury, as Hill seems to enjoy the contact rather than sliding or running outside the bounds.

And the project?

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay ranked the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 9 quarterbacks in his last mock draft. So it will be an exorbitant price for the Saints to pay if they move up from 28th place – even if someone like Alabama’s Mack Jones or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance falls a little lower than expected.

If the Saints decide to go the draft route, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. suggested. Jamie Newman, who started 16 games at Wake Forest in 2018-19 before sitting out last season due to issues with coronavirus after transferring to Georgia, as a possible candidate.

Here’s a kid who has shown a lot of talent and promise, Kiper said. Had he played at Georgia, he could have been a first or second choice. Now he’ll probably make it to the third or fourth round.

ESPN analyst Matt Miller also noted that Florida’s Kyle Trask and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond are likely to be second-round picks with developmental potential as starters.

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