There were rumors before the 2021 NFL Draft that the New Orleans Saints were trying to trade up into the top 10, potentially with an eye toward selecting a cornerback.
That obviously never came to fruition, with the Saints instead standing pat and choosing Houston defensive end Payton Turner with the 28th overall pick last Thursday night.
Well, former NFL executive Michael Lombardi confirmed Monday on the latest episode of “The GM Shuffle” podcast that New Orleans did indeed target a cornerback, possibly South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn, whom the Carolina Panthers picked at No. 8.
And the Saints apparently had a Plan B that fell through, too: They reportedly tried to trade up for Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, ultimately selected at No. 15 by the New England Patriots.
“But, and I’ve had this confirmed to me by two teams, (the Saints) were trying to get up above New England to get Mac Jones,” said Lombardi, who worked alongside Bill Belichick in New England and Cleveland. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. Everybody will deny it: ‘No, no no.’ I’m just telling you. They couldn’t get there.
“Why? Because Minnesota traded with the Jets (to No. 14); Minnesota didn’t go back as far as New Orleans, and (the Vikings) got a good deal. (No.) 13 wasn’t moving because (Rashawn) Slater was there; the Chargers weren’t going to move. (No.) 12 wasn’t moving because Dallas was going to take (Micah) Parsons. (No.) 11 became (Justin) Fields (to the Bears).
“So, there was nowhere for (the Saints) to go. There was nowhere for them to go. I don’t know if the Saints called New England to try to trade for that pick or if they knew New England was going to just take Mac Jones.”
The first three picks in the NFL draft were quarterbacks: Trevor Lawrence to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Zach Wilson to the New York Jets and Trey Lance to the San Francisco 49ers. Then, another QB wasn’t taken until the Chicago Bears traded up from No. 20 to No. 11 to land Justin Fields.
Jones more or less fell into the Patriots’ laps at No. 15, even though there was a ton of pre-draft speculation about whether Belichick would need to trade up to nab one of the top five signal-caller prospects in this year’s class. It’s interesting to hear now that things might have turned out much differently for New England had New Orleans been successful in its trade efforts.
The Saints and Patriots face similar quarterback dilemmas. While New Orleans is trying to replace Drew Brees, who retired this offseason, New England is trying to find a long-term successor for Tom Brady, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency last offseason after two decades in Foxboro.
The Saints currently are positioned to enter training camp with a quarterback battle between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. They also drafted Notre Dame QB Ian Book in the fourth round Saturday.
The Patriots are positioned to enter training camp with a battle between Jones and Cam Newton, although Belichick already indicated last week the latter is “our quarterback.” It remains to be seen if or how 2019 fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham fits into New England’s plans.