The New Orleans Saints didn’t have a lot of picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, but head coach Sean Payton still had a few tricks up his sleeve. In the final round, the Saints made did some work and jumped back in to select quarterback Tommy Stevens of Mississippi State. Not only was it a big move, but it was one that had Payton sticking it to the Carolina Panthers.
Without any picks on the final day of the draft, the Saints appeared done for the year. At the last moment, some moves were made for New Orleans to grab Stevens, whom Payton is already looking at as another version of Taysom Hill.
“There’s no way I was going to lose this kid. We know the role. We invented the role.”
ESPN is reporting that the Saints are going with Drew Brees as the starter while Hill and newly-signed Jameis Winston compete for the back-up spot. Stevens is a long shot to make the roster as a quarterback, but Payton could easily find another place for him to be useful.
Knowing his value elsewhere on the roster, Payton knew that he couldn’t miss his shot on signing Stevens. Once word got out that the quarterback agreed to join the Carolina Panthers if he went undrafted, the coach felt an even greater sense of urgency to get back into the draft.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) April 27, 2020
The Saints first chose to match Carolina’s offer to Stevens, which was $30,000 of guaranteed salary and a $15,000 signing bonus. After that, Payton offered $144,000 of guaranteed salary, but Stevens wanted to stand by his word to the Panthers and couldn’t back down from it.
That is when Payton and the Saints organization realized they could only truly get their target by drafting him.
On Saturday, the Saints had talks with the Houston Texans and worked out a deal. New Orleans would send their sixth-round pick in 2021 to the Texans in exchange for their seventh-round pick in 2020.
With the 240th overall selection of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Saints selected Stevens. Payton and Stevens’ agent Buddy Baker joke around with one another quite a bit, but the head coach knew who he wanted.
“I said, ‘Honestly, I was having some fun. ‘You had given your word, and I respect that. But we weren’t going to lose you. You were going to become a Saint.'”
Stevens has played the position of quarterback throughout his entire collegiate career. Payton believes he can continue to work on his skills as a signal-caller, but could land at tight end or on special teams in his rookie season.