Overheard during Super Bowl week: The buzz around Saints QBs, Cam and more

Article Date(s): Saturday 01 February, 2020
MIAMI -- After seven Uber rides, four parties, countless trips through radio row, two news conferences and plenty of conversations with coaches and players and execs, the best damn NFL notes column in the 305 is finally here, separated by themes that will dominate the league for this week and the coming months.

Yes, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers are about to meet in Super Bowl LIV, but there's plenty more being discussed here in South Florida this week.

Let's get right to it.

Quarterback carousel about to spin

Most of the league is waiting for clarity surrounding three names: Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Cam Newton.

No one truly knows what the heck Brady will do. Most execs predict a return to New England, but all of Brady's recent actions -- including moving out of the Boston area -- send a clear message: I will leave if you tempt me. By all accounts, Brady is looking forward to being a free agent and all that comes with it: interest from other teams, offers from other teams, maybe even visits to other teams, and also listening to the Patriots' pitch for keeping him. Most people seem to think even Brady doesn't know what he is going to do yet.

Let's assume for now that Brady stays.

Sometime in February is when we will get clarity on Brees, but after talking with several people about this, the two most plausible outcomes are this:

Retirement. Yes, the rumblings are fairly strong.

Signing a one-year deal with the Saints while helping friend Taysom Hill become the guy in 2021.

The second option is significant because sources stress that Brees and Hill are indeed close but that Hill -- a versatile weapon and a restricted free agent -- might not be ready to handle the full responsibilities of NFL quarterbacking just yet.

One more crack at a championship while continuing to develop Hill would satisfy the locker room and an aging but talented defense that is poised for another run at San Francisco.

One expected outcome if Brees returns is that Hill would get a first-round tender -- a way for the Saints to dissuade teams from submitting an offer sheet -- and Teddy Bridgewater would become a potential starter elsewhere.

We're told that a retirement is a definite option for Brees, that it isn't an empty threat to try to leverage the Saints into a contract. But we're also told, in no uncertain terms, that if Bress does play again, it would be for only New Orleans. He has said as much publicly.

Then there's Newton, whom the Panthers want to see work out on the field in March when healthy, a source said. A full evaluation will help them make a decision on his future, one that hasn't been made yet. "They want to at least give him a shot, see where he's at," the team source said. "Then we'll see what happens."

That $19.1 million salary-cap savings will be tempting for a trade. But the Panthers know they probably aren't getting Joe Burrow, and they like 2021 quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields better than the rest of the 2020 crop.

Letting Newton play out the last year of his deal is not a far-fetched scenario, even if the Panthers draft a quarterback as his eventual replacement and give that young QB a developmental year.

Three other newsy items on quarterbacks

The Bucs' Jameis Winston, coming off a 33-touchdown, 30-interception season, will join Brady, Brees, and others on the free-agent market in March. Bruce Arians were noncommittal at the end of the season about Winston returning to Tampa in 2020.

Here's what one NFL exec said this week about the former No. 1 overall pick: "I don't see how you can pay him. It would have to be pretty reasonably low if they did. You can't give him big money based on the way he played. He won't have a market."

The Titans' Ryan Tannehill, who took over the starting job from Marcus Mariota (the No. 2 pick in the same draft as Winston) and helped Tennessee reach the AFC Championship Game, is another free-agent domino this offseason. Here's what another NFL execs had to say about the Titans' looming decision: "He had a great year, but [the] scheme helped him a lot. He's going to get his money from Tennessee, but they can't go crazy. Things have to be perfect around him to perform like that."

Sources say the Titans' front office has yet to decide on the 31-year-old Tannehill in terms of whether he is worth the price of a long-term deal or even the franchise tag, especially with star running back Derrick Henry also set to become a free agent.

Oregon's Justin Herbert, a potential top-10 pick in April's draft, impressed at the Senior Bowl last week, answering questions about his leadership. One exec said he asked receivers on the South team which quarterback had the best leadership qualities during the week, and most of them said Herbert, in part because he was encouraging after bad plays. And Herbert was eager to help send in hand signals for the offensive line when he wasn't in the game, which the coaching staff saw as a positive.

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. projected the 6-foot-6 Herbert to the Chargers at No. 6 in his 2020 Mock Draft 1.0.
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