Lombardi: Saints tried to trade up to get in front of Patriots, Sean Payton 'loved' Mac Jones

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You may not have expected otherwise, but it turns out that the New Orleans Saints may not quite be satisfied with their quarterback room. The team restructured Taysom Hill's contract with four voidable years, which seems to be the perfect way to hedge their bet on an intriguing but raw talent panning out as a weekly starter in the NFL. Jameis Winston signed on a solid one-year deal that could be worth eight figures.

But on top of these two names, head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis looked to the 2021 NFL Draft to add another quarterback to the roster in Notre Dame alum Ian Book, and Payton commented on his new young signal-caller.

"Yeah, so look, we spent a lot of time with him," Payton said (via Saints official website). "The first thing you see is a guy that has won a lot of games. He's someone that I think is a good foot athlete. (A) Real good competitor, we liked a lot. He's played in big games, played at a high level so we felt like it was it was right at the right time in the draft that would be good for us and we're glad he was there."

And, to be fair, they should be happy that they were able to take a guy like Book when they did, expending only a fourth-round pick on a guy who could eventually become a real difference-maker. But it also looks as though they were aiming much higher than Book at one point during the draft, according to NFL insider Michael Lombardi.

"...I've had this confirmed to me by two teams. They were trying to get up above New England to get Mac Jones," Lombardi said on the latest episode of "The GM Shuffle" podcast, available on Audacy. "I don't think there's any doubt about that. Everybody will deny it, 'no, no, no'.... I'm telling you, they were trying to get ahead. They couldn't get there.

"Why? Because Minnesota traded with the Jets, Minnesota didn't go back as far as New Orleans and they got a good deal, right? 13 wasn't moving because (Rashawn) Slater was there, the Chargers weren't going to move. 12 wasn't moving because Dallas was going to pick (Micah) Parsons. 11 became (Justin) Fields. So there was nowhere for them to go, and I don't know if the Saints called New England to try and trade for that pick or if they knew New England was going to just take Mac Jones.

"Here's what I would say for a fact, and I've had this told to me by at least four people in the league. Sean Payton loved Mac Jones. If Sean Payton loved Mac Jones, Josh McDaniels loved Mac Jones and Kyle Shanahan liked Mac Jones, Mac Jones must be a pretty good player, because I think those three guys know how to evaluate good quarterbacks."

Lombardi also noted that the Saints tried to get into the top ten picks and draft a top-tier cornerback, like Jaycee Horn, who went at No. 8 to the NFC South rival Carolina Panthers. So it appears that there was some front office negotiating in the works — or, rather, attempts to get some negotiations done — before the Saints ultimately held on to their pick and surprised a good amount of fans with their first-round selection of Payton Turner.

Jones, on the other hand, ended up in New England under Bill Belichick, and a new era may very well be on the horizon up in Foxborough.

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