Saints avoided heavy costs by not chasing a franchise quarterback with major draft trade

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Cesar Ruiz, Derek Carr
(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

The perils of trading up and drafting a quarterback in the National Football League are once again playing out, this time in San Francisco.

The 49ers are getting skewered nationally for putting quarterback Trey Lance up for trade, just over two years after selecting Lance with the 3rd pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. San Francisco traded three first round picks and a third round selection to Miami, to move up nine spots from pick 12.

For weeks in the spring of 2021 on the Aaron Rodgers network (ESPN), the debate went on and on about what the 49ers should do, either stay put or move up for a quarterback.

Situations like the one with Lance make the Saints’ pursuit of Derek Carr look all the wiser.

Carr signed as a free agent this offseason for four years, with $60 million of his $125 million contract guaranteed. For a starting quarterback in the NFL, the 10-year veteran should be considered a bargain.

The Saints know exactly who Carr is. In nine seasons, he’s been above the NFL average. Probably not in the top 10 but certainly in the top half of the league.

What New Orleans also did in the offseason is avoid the pitfall of mortgaging the future of a franchise to trade up for an unknown commodity.

In the 2021 draft, only first pick Trevor Lawrence has shown true star potential. The second pick by the Jets, quarterback Zach Wilson, is now on the bench behind Aaron Rodgers.

If only the Jets had decided to use that pick on something other than a quarterback.

Here’s picks four through seven in the same draft – tight end Kyle Pitts (potential star), wide Ja’Marr Chase (superstar), wide Jaylen Waddle (star) and offensive tackle Penei Sewell (star).

Yet, New York chose Wilson. To be fair to the Jets, there were a lot of folks infatuated with the former BYU star. In his final season of college football, he threw 33 touchdown passes against only three interceptions, completed 73.5 percent of his throws and ran for 10 touchdowns.

Still, for some reason, at least so far, it hasn’t happened for Wilson in the NFL.

If you like what the Saints did with Carr, you also have to like what the Pittsburgh Steelers did with Kenny Pickett.

With the 20th overall selection of the 2022 draft, the pick after the Saints selected offensive tackle Trevor Penning, the Steelers grabbed Pickett, the home town star from the University of Pittsburgh.

The move made sense for the Steelers. If Pickett turns into a very good quarterback (a real possibility), the team has their quarterback of the present and future with several years left on his inexpensive rookie contract.

If Pickett doesn’t perform at a high level, the Steelers can move on, knowing that they took a chance that only cost them a mid-first round pick.

Pittsburgh did much the same thing in 2004, using the 11th pick in the draft on Miami of Ohio quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Merely staying put and taking the right chance can pay big dividends without extra costs.

If Derek Carr doesn’t pan out for the Saints, they can move on at some point and look for the next Drew Brees. Of course, that was the free agent signing of a generation, not an expensive move via trade.

The search for such a talent can often be prickly, and don’t the San Francisco 49ers know it.

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Ed Daniels

WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM

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Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…

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