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After Further Review: Five takes from the Saints & Deshaun Watson

FILE - The Saints went all-in to trade for Watson but came up short. (AP Photo/Justin Rex File)
FILE - The Saints went all-in to trade for Watson but came up short. (AP Photo/Justin Rex File)(ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Published: Mar. 19, 2022 at 9:46 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Roller Coaster Week

A roller coaster week for the Saints began with confidence and ended with complete shock.

At one point Tuesday, the Saints thought they landed their man. I was told that there was extreme confidence after their first meeting with Deshaun Watson that they felt they could get a deal done and he was headed to New Orleans. National reporters even labeled the Saints as the ‘frontrunners’ for Watson.

But on Wednesday things shifted when the Falcons got in the mix. Watson met with them in Atlanta and they reportedly ‘rolled out the red carpet’ for him. That prompted the Saints go another round and meet with Watson again, only this time with team owner Gayle Benson was there with them.

By Thursday morning, the Saints still felt good with where they stood and restructured four more contracts, a move many thought was clearing the way to add Watson. But by Thursday evening, the tone within the Saints started to shift. They were no longer as confident in their position. When the reports of Matt Ryan pushing his bonus back to Tuesday surfaced, that’s when it felt like the pendulum had officially swung in the Falcons’ favor. By Friday, most thought Atlanta was where Watson was headed. It was only a matter of time before his announcement.

Then came the bombshell.

Out of nowhere, Watson chose to waive his no-trade clause and join the Browns, the team he’d eliminated first of the four teams to make offers to him. The news stunned everyone, but when the contract was revealed it wasn’t hard to figure out how Cleveland suddenly got back in the mix.

Take Two: Hefty Compensation

Five years, $230 million. Every penny of it guaranteed.

Look no further as to why Watson is currently a Brown.

It all came down to dollars and cents, not some epiphany on the Browns current roster just three days after he told them ‘no thanks.’ That sentiment was laughable. What isn’t funny is the new contract. Frankly, the Saints were never going to come close to that kind of money.

Watson now heads to a cold weather city in a much tougher division than the NFC South.

Take Three: Regrouping after rejection

Regardless of how anyone feels about Watson, the fact is the Saints went all-in to get him. They wanted him to be their next franchise quarterback. The organization knew the risks involved from a football and PR standpoint and deemed he was worth it. They were willing to surrender three first-round picks and possibly some young talented players to get him. They took a huge swing and missed.

By not landing Watson, they avoided the controversy undoubtedly coming Cleveland’s way. Though Watson won’t face criminal charges, he still has 22 civil lawsuits filed against him for sexual misconduct allegations. His addition would have alienated a portion of the Saints’ fan base.

Now, they must regroup and get to work on matters put in a holding pattern while they pursued Watson. The good news is by maneuvering the number of contracts they did, the Saints have space to sign some players. Hopefully, enough are still available to fill obvious holes on this roster.

As for their own free agents, it will be interesting to see what happens with Terron Armstead. He was reportedly waiting out what happens with Watson. Watson is now out, but the Saints have more cash to maybe make a more lucrative offer to Armstead.

Of course, they’re also still in search of what they’ve labeled as their top priority.

Which brings me to….

Take Four: Winston and the QB landscape

As I wrote last week and said on many shows well before they pursued Watson, I was always hesitant to label Jameis Winston the frontrunner to return as Saints quarterback. A team who was all-in on a quarterback would not let him hit the open market like the Saints did with Winston. From a purely football standpoint, the team wanted to upgrade at the position.

Now the circumstances have clearly changed, and Winston might be near the top of their list. The question is whether Winston has the same affection for the Saints after they openly pursued someone else as their top option. The Saints essentially told Winston that he’s their plan B.

My guess is, though it may take some soothing over, if the Saints want him, it can be worked out. Even if there are hard feelings from Winston, I’m not sure he has a better option. The market just wasn’t there for him. He’s been available all this time and no one has signed him. Maybe that changes with Watson out of the way. We’ll find out soon enough.

Other options include Jimmy Garappolo and Baker Mayfield via the trade route. Free agents Marcus Mariota and Ryan Fitzpatrick also are available.

The Saints envisioned Watson being their quarterback for the next 8-10 years. No one signed at this stage will have that same confidence from the organization, at least not initially.

Take Five: Other Observations

  • I still believe the draft route is a possibility for this team at quarterback. If the draft grades line up with the selection, the Saints should keep that option open.
  • Ryan Ramczyk was never going to be part of any trade for Watson.
  • The Saints kept their plans to pursue Watson completely under wraps . At no point did anyone suspect the Saints were even in the mix for Watson. Yet, they were one of the first teams to make an offer as soon as his legal issues cleared up.

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