The Saints will be in the market for a QB next year, and Jimmy Garoppolo’s big throws under pressure made for a compelling audition come 2023 free agency:
There’s no question that the New Orleans Saints will be looking for a quarterback in 2023. Andy Dalton hasn’t inspired anyone as a one-year rental after taking over for Jameis Winston, whose future with the team is in doubt. Winston has missed extensive time with injuries in each of his two years as the starter and he’s still on the bench. He’s also their only quarterback under contract for 2023, but the Saints can save $4 million by releasing him, and it certainly feels like that’s the way things are headed.
Jimmy Garoppolo gave them a firsthand look at an alternative in Sunday’s win, with the San Francisco 49ers quarterback completing a cool 70.3% of his passes without turning the ball over. And he often made plays under pressure. The Saints pass rush did its job and beat the 49ers blockers to hit and harry Garoppolo throughout the afternoon, and he made plays anyway. NFL Next Gen Stats tracking found that he was one of the most aggressive passers in Week 12, crediting him with his highest completion percentage above expectation (CPAE) score of the year at +4.6%. That metric factors in throws made under pressure and tight coverage by the defense, and it illustrates just how effective Garoppolo was on Sunday.
And he’s probably going to be the best available quarterback in 2023 free agency; Tom Brady is likelier to retire (for real this time) than start over somewhere else, and it would be stunning to see the Baltimore Ravens not work things out with Lamar Jackson (even if they need to use the franchise tag). Other veterans like Geno Smith, Taylor Heinicke, and Teddy Bridgewater probably stay with their teams, too.
That’s not to say Garoppolo is an elite passer who could fix all of the Saints’ problems. We’ve seen him at his lowest in the NFL, too. But he brings more credibility than other quarterbacks who could reach free agency like Sam Darnold, Drew Lock, Gardner Minshew, and Baker Mayfield. And he would be an upgrade over the passers New Orleans already has; Dalton has never won a playoff game as a starting quarterback, and Winston has never even gotten a team into the postseason. Garoppolo has gone 4-2 in the playoffs.
But, again, he isn’t perfect. The 49ers didn’t invest a ton of time and resources into getting his replacement for no reason, and Trey Lance should be the uncontested starter next year once Garoppolo leaves town. We’ve seen Garoppolo’s limitations lose games and even a Super Bowl. Navigating the salary cap to go get him wouldn’t make the Saints relevant again on its own.
It would be a nice start, though. Getting a veteran quarterback with a resume who isn’t a social media laughingstock like Dalton or Winston would at least show fans the Saints are taking this seriously. That trust was eroded quickly when Sean Payton quit on the team and lobbied for Dennis Allen as his successor on his way out the door. Whether Allen returns in 2023 or not, New Orleans can at least take a step in the right direction and go sign a proven quarterback who can get the ball to his playmakers. That would be a step up from where things are right now.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Saints still have five games left to play. Maybe Dalton suddenly turns it around or Winston gets back into the starting lineup and sparks a comeback. Maybe the run the table and get into the playoffs. Anything can happen, right?
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