The New Orleans Saints starting quarterback for the 2021 season hasn’t been decided, but a draft-day blockbuster trade nearly came together that may have changed the franchise for years to come.
Even before Drew Brees officially announced his retirement, the Saints were making plans at quarterback. They re-signed Jameis Winston and restructured Taysom Hill‘s contract, bringing back the top candidates to take over as the starter.
But the Saints weren’t done. They did extensive work on the 2021 NFL Draft’s quarterback class, evaluating the top prospects and also determining which unheralded signal-callers they like. New Orleans ultimately drafted Ian Book in the fourth round, but things would have been very different if not for the New England Patriots.
According to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, the Saints had an agreement in place with the Arizona Cardinals for the No. 16 pick. The trade would allow New Orleans to draft Mac Jones, but the Patriots stepped in and drafted the Heisman Trophy finalist 15th overall.
It’s evident Payton was clearly high on Jones. Howe also reported that New Orleans started making calls to trade up after the Alabama quarterback slipped past the Denver Broncos. The Chicago Bears moved up to No. 11 for Justin Fields, but the cost was too high for the Saints to move up from the 28th pick.