The New Orleans Saints have been keeping an eye on this year’s quarterback prospects in the NFL draft. But general manager Mickey Loomis insisted Wednesday the team doesn’t see an end in sight for current quarterback Drew Brees any time soon.
Loomis was asked during his annual pre-draft press conference how he’ll know when it’s time to draft an understudy for Brees, who turned 36 in January and has two years left on his contract.
Loomis paused for a long moment before saying, “I don’t know that I’d phrase (it that way).”
“That’s a good question,” Loomis said. “I think you’re always looking to get a young quarterback in the program. We’ve got one in Ryan Griffin that we like. And if an opportunity presents itself, hey, we may take another one here. But I don’t see the end for Drew Brees on the short-term horizon. At least I certainly hope not. But it does take time for these quarterbacks to develop. And we’re conscious of that.
“We evaluate the quarterbacks. And obviously if an opportunity presents itself to take one at the right time, we’re not afraid to do that.”
The Saints have only drafted one quarterback in the Brees-Sean Payton era -- and that was Sean Canfield in the seventh round in 2010. They could break that trend this year, considering Brees' age and the fact that New Orleans has five draft picks in the top 78. A league source confirmed last week that the Saints held a private workout with at least one of this year’s QB prospects: Baylor’s Bryce Petty.
However, as Loomis and Payton have previously said, they don’t have to force it just because Brees is 36 and had a slightly down season with too many turnovers in 2014. They’ll only do it if they have conviction on a specific prospect.
It remains to be seen if they’ll have that conviction this year, but the odds may be reduced by what most analysts seem to consider a thin draft class for QBs. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are the only surefire Round 1 prospects. After that, Petty, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson, UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion are the most likely candidates to land in Rounds 2 or 3.
As for Brees, he said last week it would be the Saints' "prerogative" if they want to draft a QB. He said it wouldn't change his preparation or mindset, and he'd invite the competition.
As for Griffin, it’s hard to tell exactly how much the Saints value the former undrafted free agent out of Tulane. The Saints were high enough on him as a rookie in 2013 that they added him to their practice squad and then signed him to the 53-man roster mid-season to prevent him from being snatched away by the St. Louis Rams.
But last year, the Saints went with veteran Luke McCown as their backup QB and left Griffin exposed on the practice squad once again.
Whether or not the Saints draft a quarterback this year, this will be an important offseason for Griffin to try and cement his role as Brees’ top understudy.