Nothing concrete has solidified between the New Orleans Saints and free agent quarterback Derek Carr, but the mutual interest remains, as the two sides met again on Tuesday night in Indianapolis, where Saints team officials and coaches have gathered to further their evaluation of the incoming rookie class at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Carr visited the Saints in New Orleans earlier in February, before he was released by the Las Vegas Raiders.
"We had a good visit," Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis said. "He's going through his process and we're going through our process, and we'll see what happens."
Coach Dennis Allen, who drafted Carr as head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2014, said he has a great relationship with Carr.
"I think he's highly competitive, I think he's highly intelligent, I think he's got great work ethic, I think he's an outstanding leader," Allen said. "Those are all the qualities that I like about him, and those are qualities that we like in the quarterback position. We like the player."
However, Loomis said, New Orleans still must do its due diligence regarding the position. Having gained a first-round pick (No. 29 overall) in exchange for trading Coach Sean Payton to Denver – Payton sat out last season after stepping down as Saints coach in 2021, with two years remaining on his contract – doesn't lock in the Saints for drafting a quarterback in the first round. But New Orleans is considering its options for the position.
"It's the most important position on the field and we certainly want to do our homework there and make sure we're making the right decision," Allen said.
Since Drew Brees retired following the 2020 season, the Saints have had five quarterbacks start in the past 34 games.
"I think unless you're at the top of the draft, you're just looking at everyone," Loomis said. "(But) when you're late in the draft, or even later rounds, there's nothing that prevents you from signing a free agent quarterback and drafting one.
"We're in the business of collecting good players and collecting quarterbacks. For years, I think it was (former Green Bay general manager) Ron Wolf that wanted to draft a quarterback every year and put them in the stable. They either become good players for you or they became assets that you could trade.
"We've always spent a good amount of time evaluating the quarterbacks, even in the prime of Drew's career we did that. We just didn't end up having a lot of opportunities to draft guys that we liked at the point where we had the pick available."
Selecting at 29 isn't optimal, but Loomis said New Orleans can find a good player at that position in the draft.
"I wouldn't say it was important for us to have the first-round pick this year," he said. "The important thing was to get a first-round pick and then, something. But it's nice to have a first-round pick. We're going to get a good player that can compete for playing time.
"We got (All-Pro right tackle) Ryan Ramczyk at 32 (in 2017), right? So we can get a good player there. And he stepped in right away and played at a really high level. They're available, and our scouting staff has done a great job of finding those guys and our coaches have done a great job of developing them."
NFL Prospects from Louisiana State University, Tulane University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and Louisiana Tech attended Day 1 of the NFL Combine on Wednesday, March 1, 2023.
RE-PETE: Allen had a succinct answer when asked about bringing back Pete Carmichael as offensive coordinator.
"The main reason I wanted to keep Pete as the OC is just, go back and look at his track record," Allen said. "Sean Payton, hell of a coach, great offensive mind. Pete's been with this offense, he's been the one common denominator with this offense the whole time. Even back to 2011, when Sean was injured (against Tampa Bay, and Carmichael was offensive coordinator in a 62-7 win against the Colts the next game) and Pete really called all the offensive plays – I think it was probably one of the most productive offenses that we've had here.
"So when you have a proven commodity that you know is good and can do the job, why would I make a change and go through this rat race of the 13 or 14 offensive coordinators – ended up with teams looking for 16 offensive coordinators. We'll see how those 16 do, but I think we have a proven commodity in Pete and I've got all the confidence in the world that he'll be able to do the job."
LOOKING FOR CONSISTENCY: While Allen said he has confidence in Carmichael, he also said the offense has to develop more consistency. The Saints scored 19.4 points per game (22nd in the league) and scored touchdowns 52.1 percent of the time in the red zone, 21st in the league. Those are among the numbers Allen wants to see improved.
"I felt like we did a good job of moving the football," he said. "What I don't feel like we did a good job of is finishing. So whether that be finishing in the red zone, there were some third down opportunities that we could have converted – I just thought there were inconsistencies in the way that we performed offensively.
"But yet, I do feel like there were stretches where we moved the ball extremely well. I felt like we did some good things in the passing game. Even with two or three offensive linemen being down, I felt like we were still were able to function offensively so I thought we overcame some adversity in those situations.
"The biggest thing for me, offensively, was just the consistency. Move the ball, move the ball, move the ball, go down and score. And then we'd have this large gap of (not being able to score).
EARLY ASSESSMENT: Loomis said as of now, two skill positions stand out in his eye for the upcoming draft. "I feel like initially there's a lot of good receivers," he said. "There's a good group of tight ends. That's just my initial reaction. But it's still really early in the process."