There will be a lot of former Saints players littering NFC South rosters in the 2023 season.
The latest is in the form of quarterback Andy Dalton, who agreed to a 2-year deal worth up to $17 million if all incentives are reached, according to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter. The deal has $8 million guaranteed, and Carolina will be Dalton's fifth team in the past five seasons since spending his first nine with the Cincinnati Bengals.
That news comes a day after the Panthers agreed to terms with DT Shy Tuttle on a 3-year, $19 million deal, and the Falcons signed away DT David Onyemata and LB Kaden Ellis on big-money, 3-year deals.
Free agent deals can't become official until the start of the new league year on March 15.
Dalton, who started the final 14 games of the 2022 season for New Orleans a season ago, was a potential option to return as a backup to Derek Carr, but that role was filled on Monday when Jameis Winston agreed to return on a reduced deal. The Panthers last week executed a trade to move up to No. 1 overall in the upcoming draft, presumably to select a quarterback. Alabama's Bryce Young, Ohio State's CJ Stroud and Kentucky's Will Levis are the top options. The Panthers also have former Ole Miss QB Matt Corral who could serve as competition in training camp.
Should Dalton start the season and serve as a bridge for whatever rookie is brought in, it'd be a familiar scenario. Dalton did just that in Chicago during the 2021 season, starting for six games before suffering an injury and being replaced by No. 11 overall pick Justin Fields. The Bears also happen to be the team that sent the Panthers the No. 1 overall pick in a trade that sent back multiple draft picks and standout WR DJ Moore.
The 35-year-old Dalton performed well in leading the Saints offense in 2022 after he took over for an injured Jameis Winston for a Week 4 loss to the Vikings in London. He finished the year with a 6-8 record as the starter, completing 66.7% of his passes for 2,871 yards, 18 TDs and 9 interceptions.
The Saints' biggest free agency splash came in the form of Carr, whom New Orleans inked to a 4-year, $150 million deal to take over as the starting QB. The team has also re-signed TE Juwan Johnson, DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, S and special teams ace J.T. Gray, WR Keith Kirkwood and G Calvin Throckmorton, while also re-working Michael Thomas' contract to have him return on a 1-year deal.