Focused on Needs

Daniel’s signing means Saints don’t need to draft a quarterback, can fill holes, add depth

The New Orleans Saints’ confidence is growing, and they showed it this week. Even if the 2017 NFL season doesn’t kick off until September, some believe the team that has gone 7-9 each of the last three seasons has a chance to vault into the postseason and, possibly, compete for the Super Bowl. 

This week, the Saints signed free-agent quarterback Chase Daniel and released backup Luke McCown.

On the surface, it doesn’t appear to be huge move. But the truth is it will have a large impact on the team this year and, possibly, in several years to come.

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Drew Brees turned 38 years old in January, and is obviously the unquestioned starter. He looks like he can play for the foreseeable near future – he’s coming off of a Pro Bowl season, has only missed two starts in his time with the Saints, and remains the centerpiece to the team’s success.

That means the Saints can use the upcoming NFL Draft and remaining free agency to sign impact players at positions of highest need – cornerback, defensive end, linebacker, offensive line – rather than using a pick on speculative quarterback.

It also bodes well for the team’s future.

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Brees has one year left on his current deal. He’s said he believes he can play for several more seasons. That gives the Saints an ace in the hole. It’s completely feasible that the team could reach a new multi-year deal with their quarterback before the season starts. Of course, they could part after this year, too, via retirement, his desire to seek a max deal with another team, or trade.

McCown, 35, was a solid backup and played well in his one start against Carolina in 2015, but his age became more and more of a question mark for the team.

Daniel, 30, has been a career backup, but New Orleans’ brain trust believes he has the talent to be an NFL starter. He began his pro career with the Saints, after signing a free agent contract in 2009. Daniel was with the team for four years before signing with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013. He lost the position battle to Alex Smith, the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, and served as the Chiefs backup until 2015. Last offseason, he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, who started Carson Wentz, the second overall pick in the 2016 Draft. When the Eagles signed Nick Foles last month, Daniel asked for and was given his release.

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With light use, Daniel doesn’t have the mileage and physical injuries that most players his age do. He’s been the understudy of one of the best players at his position. If needed, he can be not only a serviceable replacement, but also a permanent fixture once Brees moves on.

The move at backup QB also bodes well for third-string quarterback Garrett Grayson, 25, who the Saints drafted in the third round of the 2015 Draft, the Saint’s highest picked quarterback since team legend Archie Manning.

Grayson has underperformed in his first two seasons in New Orleans and has been relegated to the practice squad for most of his career. In the 2016 preseason, Grayson completed 55.7 percent of his passes for 409 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions. But as a practice squad player, Grayson doesn’t get regular season practice time with first- or second-string players. This offseason, he has worked out with University of Florida head coach Jim McElwain, his coach at Colorado State, to try to resurrect his career.

This summer will be critical for Grayson’s career with the Saints, as they try to determine if after sitting two seasons the QB has rust or is a bust. Saints fans are rooting for the youngster, but, ultimately, the team’s success is most important.

The Saints got better by signing Daniel. He is an upgrade at backup, and may prove to be the heir apparent to Brees, whenever he decides to hang up his cleets.



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