INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL season that just ended illustrated the importance of having a good backup quarterback.
Philadelphia won a Super Bowl with its backup. Minnesota, the team the Eagles beat to get to the NFC Championship, rode its backup to the top of the NFC North while the division favorite, the Green Bay Packers, collapsed after Aaron Rodgers went down with an injury.
The New Orleans Saints are in the middle of trying to re-sign their starter, but the Saints also have questions to answer behind Drew Brees.
Veteran Chase Daniel is a free agent, second-year passer Taysom Hill is getting ready for his first full offseason with the Saints and the NFL draft appears to be full of intriguing options.
"We’d love to have Chase back," general manager Mickey Loomis said. "We’re excited about Taysom as a prospect and excited about what he did on special teams. It’s kind of so unique, but we’ll see how that shakes out."
Daniel, 31, is widely recognized as one of the NFL's best backups and has a great relationship with Brees, but he's been clear in the past that he would like a chance to be an NFL starter.
Always a backup, Daniel signed a one-year deal in New Orleans last offseason in part because it would allow him to look for a chance at a starter's role this offseason — and with the quarterback market expected to be more active than usual, Daniel could get that opportunity elsewhere.
"It’s sorting through Chase, those other players," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "But that combination of things will sort itself out.”
There's also the specter of a deep class of quarterbacks in this draft — even if the best prospects will be hard for the Saints to acquire. The team picks 27th in the first round and does not have a second-round pick.
Still, New Orleans will have a chance at a quarterback. Payton mentioned Thursday at the NFL combine that he thinks the quarterback class is part of the strength of this year's draft pool.
The other wild card is Hill, the undrafted rookie whom New Orleans claimed off of waivers from Green Bay at the start of the season.
Hill, as some people might have forgotten, was a college football sensation at BYU before injuries cost him a couple of seasons. The Saints are anxious to see what he can do with a full offseason in their offense.
During the regular season, Brees handled almost all of the starter's repetitions in practice, which left Hill to make an impression in a special-teams role.
The offseason gives Hill a chance to make his case for a role in the offense.
"Taysom — obviously, we’ll have a chance to get exposed to him more as a quarterback during the preseason," Payton said.
Payton likes Hill's potential. A lot.
Hill is athletic and accurate — traits that stood out when Payton was scouting former Green Bay receiver Max McCaffrey last preseason and couldn't take his eyes off the quarterback throwing McCaffrey the ball.
Payton isn't ready to say that Hill is the top backup. Not without seeing Hill in the offense.
"I’m not saying that, but I’m not saying he can’t be," Payton said. "I’d like to see him compete and possibly earn that position, but I think it’s just sorting through the contract numbers of guys like Chase and the other veteran players."