Early Free-Agent Contracts the Saints Must Consider
The New Orleans Saints' first move of the offseason has to involve their quarterback situation.
If Brees departs the NFL, the Saints would have a single member of their quarterback trio from the 2020 season under contract ahead of free agency.
Sean Payton's team can fix that by re-signing Jameis Winston to a free-agent deal, but it will face some challenges from elsewhere with the quarterback carousel spinning at its highest speed.
As they work on their starting quarterback for 2021, the Saints have to decide whether or not to keep a few key defensive free agents, including Marcus Williams and Trey Hendrickson.
It may also be smart for the Saints to go after support for whomever leads the offense next season with so many wide receivers hitting the open market.
Re-signing Winston would be beneficial to all parties if Brees retires.
Winston would have a chance to compete for the second starting gig of his career. He moved on from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last offseason due to their addition of Tom Brady.
New Orleans would be able to potentially replace Brees with a quarterback who is already familiar with the team's offensive concepts and has looked better than Taysom Hill.
Winston was utilized far less than Hill during the 2020 campaign, but he showed off his playmaking ability when given the opportunity in the divisional-round loss to Tampa Bay.
The 27-year-old also knows what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the NFL and could be more prepared to approach that situation than Hill, who has been a utility man for his entire time with the Saints.
Winston, who is three years younger than Hill, has started 70 games in his career, while Hill's first starts came during Brees' injury absence this season.
The Saints would likely have to pay Winston much more than the $952,000 base salary he earned in 2020, per Spotrac, but it could be well worth it with Brees away from the field.
With a handful of veteran quarterbacks potentially changing teams or retiring, the Saints could face some competition for Winston, but if they can convince him to re-sign, they could have a starter in place for 2021 and beyond.
Marcus Williams or Trey Hendrickson
The Saints may have to make a choice between which defensive free agent they attempt to re-sign.
Marcus Williams and Trey Hendrickson could both fetch decent numbers on the free-agent market, but the Saints could entice one of them back to Louisiana.
Williams put together four solid years in the New Orleans secondary. He had 30 passes defended and 13 interceptions in 60 starts. He missed four games during that span.
Hendrickson had a breakout season on the defensive line with team bests of 25 quarterback hits and 13.5 sacks.
The 26-year-old pass-rusher should fetch a sizable contract on the market, and the Saints may be willing to let him go since Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport are already under contract.
If the Saints go after a new deal for Hendrickson, they may not have enough cash to spend on Williams, especially with Malcolm Jenkins locked in to make over $8 million next season.
If Brees was coming back and Winston did not return, the Saints may have a chance to retain the services of both, but since they likely have to splurge on a new quarterback, they might have to make a run at one of the two impending free agents.
The Saints could use some extra help at wide receiver behind Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Thomas may be around for a while, but Sanders is 34 and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
New Orleans has a decent third piece in Tre'Quan Smith, but it could look for a supporting wideout to make the offense more dangerous than it is at the moment.
The Saints should not pursue Allen Robinson II, Kenny Golladay or the other top wideouts on the market since they already have an established No. 1 in Thomas, but a player like Nelson Agholor could be the perfect complement to him moving forward.
Agholor had a breakout season on a one-year deal with the Las Vegas Raiders and could be a nice option to have on a multiyear contract to build chemistry with whomever takes over at quarterback.
Agholor produced a career-high 896 receiving yards and tied his career best with eight touchdowns in 2020. He had more receiving yards than any Saints player.
If the Saints have a healthy pair of Thomas and Sanders in place and someone like Agholor producing out of the slot, they should be in a great spot to contend for the NFC South title alongside the Super Bowl-bound Buccaneers.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90
Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference
Contract information obtained from Spotrac