NFL Rumors: Mac Jones Targeted by Saints in Trade 'Several Times' in 2021 NFL Draft

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 6, 2022

BUFFALO, NEW YORK - JANUARY 15: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots looks to pass during the third quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

While they wound up taking Ian Book in the fourth round, the New Orleans Saints had their eyes on another quarterback in the 2021 NFL draft.

The Athletic's Jeff Howe reported the Saints "tried several times" to move up in the first round so they could take Mac Jones, who went 15th overall to the New England Patriots.

Howe explained how last year Saints general manager Mickey Loomis was unable to convince anybody picking ahead of the Patriots to move back to the No. 28 pick. As a result, Jones wound up in New England.

Jones finished second in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting after throwing for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. While it's too early to start fitting him for a gold jacket, the 23-year-old vindicated the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick after they made him the Week 1 starter.

On April 4, New Orleans swung a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles that saw the team add the No. 16 and 19 overall picks this year for a package that included the No. 18 pick and a 2023 first-rounder.

Following the trade with the Eagles, New Orleans might now have the capital to get aggressive if Loomis likes one of the quarterbacks still on the board.

Mark Kaboly @MarkKaboly

If the Steelers were interested in a quarterback at No. 20, the Saints made it more difficult by acquiring draft capital. Saints can now go get whoever they want.

In Bleacher Report's most recent mock draft, which was done before the Saints' trade, Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson was projected to land in the Big Easy.

Figuring out a long-term answer at quarterback is clearly a concern for New Orleans. 

The Taysom Hill QB experiment can officially be termed a bust. Book looked significantly overmatched in his only start as a rookie, going 12-of-20 for 135 yards and two interceptions and getting sacked eight times. And Jameis Winston, who signed a two-year, $28 million deal to return to the team, is coming off a torn ACL. The recently signed Andy Dalton will provide depth but isn't an ideal starting option.

Nobody will be surprised, especially after their trade, to see the Saints take Liberty's Malik Willis, Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder or Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett.

According to NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, though, a handful of opposing GMs see a fairly straightforward reasoning behind Loomis' strategy:

Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks

Reached out to 6 GM’s to get their thoughts on Saints motive for the trade with Eagles. Majority think it’s about Saints believing they are really close and two quality starters could put them in playoffs right now. One mentioned Ridder as mid 1st possibility.

Whatever they wind up doing, Loomis and his colleagues in the New Orleans front office have at least given themselves a lot of flexibility in the first round.