When New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees retired this offseason, the leading candidates to succeed him were former BYU signal caller Taysom Hill and NFL veteran Jameis Winston, the top overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
Now there’s another quarterback joining New Orleans, as the team selected Notre Dame’s Ian Book in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL draft on Saturday.
Book is the all-time winningest quarterback at storied Notre Dame. The 23-year-old started three seasons for the Irish, going 30-5, and finished second in school history in passing yards (8,948), completions (728), attempts (1,141) and passing touchdowns (72). He also ran for 1,517 and 17 more touchdowns.
“Sean Payton got a taste of what he could do with a mobile quarterback in his offense over the last few seasons. Book offers a more natural blend of passing ability and athleticism than Taysom Hill and has a chance to develop into a capable backup,” NFL.com’s Mark Dulgerian said in analyzing the pick.
Hill and Winston’s experience with Saints
Hill has been with the Saints for four seasons after going undrafted, and he started four games in relief of an injured Brees last year, going 3-1 in that stretch. He finished 2020 throwing for 928 passing yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions, while also rushing for 457 yards and eight touchdowns. He also lost five fumbles.
Earlier this offseason, Hill agreed to a four-year, $140 million extension that’s fully voidable and was devised to help the Saints save $7.5 million in cap space this season. Essentially, with the four voidable years, Hill is guaranteed to be signed through 2021 and will earn more than $7.2 million this year, per Spotrac.
During his pro career, New Orleans has used the multifaceted Hill in a utility role on both offense and special teams. He recently talked about how his workout routine has changed this year, though, with the opportunity to earn the starting role.
“For the last four years, my workout routine has been different,” Hill told media members at a golf event last week, per ESPN’s Mike Triplett. “It’s been structured to be the Swiss Army knife and do all these other things I was going to be called upon (to do), where now my emphasis, my focus is just being a full-time quarterback.”
Winston, meanwhile, is returning to the Saints for a second season after signing a one-year, $5.5 million contract, per Spotrac, after hitting free agency. He played sparingly last year in relief of Brees, but has the most experience in the New Orleans quarterback room. He was the starting quarterback in Tampa Bay for five seasons, going 28-42 as QB1, while throwing for 19,737 yards and 121 touchdowns for the Buccaneers with 88 interceptions.
Before Winston re-signed with New Orleans and prior to Brees retiring, Saints coach Sean Payton shared a vote of confidence in Winston, telling former Saints kicker Morten Andersen, “Jameis Winston we had a good year to work with and he’s someone I’ve said it on record already that we’d like to sign back. I’d like to see him competing to be that guy.”
What does the Book selection mean?
With Book joining the Saints via the draft, that gives New Orleans four quarterbacks — including veteran Trevor Siemian, an offseason acquisition.
“Book doesn’t figure to compete for the starting job right away, not with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill on the roster, but New Orleans found itself a developmental prospect with a long-term hope that he’ll end up rising to a starting role. If not, perhaps he could serve as a quality backup,” NFL.com’s Nick Shook wrote in analyzing the pick.
Book had been linked with New Orleans in the predraft process.
“That kid at Notre Dame (Ian Book) is pretty scrappy,” Payton told the Dan Patrick Show, per NOLA.com. “He’s pretty interesting to watch on tape.”
Book shared his excitement over his fit with the Saints.
“We had good meetings over Zoom and I was just crossing my fingers,” Book said, per NOLA.com. “I was really hoping for any team, but this is an unbelievable spot for me.”