TAMPA — Drew Brees announced Tuesday that he plans to return for a 20th NFL season and will play for New Orleans in 2020. What went unsaid is that it means another coveted Saints quarterback will be leaving.
Brees confirmed his decision on Instagram. “My feelings about the 2020 season! I look forward to the grind and the journey for the reward at the end will be worth it! Love you #WhoDatNation. Let’s make another run at it!’’
Why does this matter? With quarterback Teddy Bridgewater set to become an unrestricted free agent and Taysom Hill a restricted free agent, the Saints won’t be able to retain all three.
Since all the Saints have to do to keep Hill is make him a high contract tender for 2020, the odd man out is Bridgewater.
Had Brees retired, Bridgewater likely would have tried to re-sign with the Saints and continue playing for coach Sean Payton. Instead, he’s looking for a team to lead.
A severe knee injury cost Bridgewater two seasons after he got off to a good start in his career as the last pick in the first round by the Vikings in 2014. He was the Pepsi Rookie of the Year for Minnesota.
At 27, Bridgewater still is a young quarterback and Bucs coach Bruce Arians has said he believes he deserves to be a starter again in this league.
Last season, Bridgewater went 5-0 in relief of Brees, who missed more than a month with a thumb injury. Bridgewater also threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in a win over the Bucs. He had a passer rating of 99.1.
Bridgewater’s turnover-worthy plays were 2.1 percent, seventh-lowest in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. But he also lacks some arm strength. His percentage of big-time throws was 2.9 percent, which ranked 28th.
If you’re the Bucs, one question is whether you would trade the very high ceiling, but submarine lows of Winston and his turnovers, for a lesser playmaker who is not going to give the football away?
A lot of this will come down to economics. The Bucs say retaining the defense is the biggest priority. Arians said he wants to keep as many front seven players, including Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh and Carl Nassib, as possible.
The quarterback position is flooded with options, but a lot has yet to play out. So far, the Bucs only know that Bridegwater and Phillip Rivers are available.
Winston remains in the mix, too, of course. But as Arians talks about Door No. 2, you can now count Bridgewater in the mix.