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Saints' Jeff Ireland: Adding developmental QB Jake Haener 'smart business' 

The New Orleans Saints used a fourth-round pick on Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener despite giving Derek Carr a four-year, $150 million contract this offseason and bringing back Jameis Winston as the backup.

Assistant general manager Jeff Ireland told Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune that the front office wanted to add a developmental signal-caller to the QB room who can grow with Carr.

"So we tossed a lot of these things around, like the idea of having a young developmental quarterback learn a new system with Derek and Jameis," he said. "So that's just a smart business move, in our opinion. We felt like that was a smart move to get a young player in there to develop. We just want to see him develop in a system where we feel like it's going to be successful. Learn from two guys that have been doing this and battled as starters in this league. We feel like that's smart business."

The Saints traded up to the No. 127 overall pick, shipping out a 2024 fourth-rounder, to make Haener the sixth QB selected in the draft.

At 6-foot, Haener doesn't possess great size or a big arm, but the Saints loved his field-general ability.

"You wouldn't think he was 6-foot tall when you watch him," Ireland said. "He's got great processing ability. He's got great vision. He's got a quick stroke. He's extremely smart. He's a sixth-year senior, so he's really mature for being a college senior. He's competed in two different programs, he's competed at Washington, competed at Fresno State. And I was just really impressed with the person, how he plays. He's had several fourth-quarter comebacks. He does kind of remind you or there's some similarities to No. 9 (Drew Brees). He's undersized, the way he creates windows and processing speed, quick release, the accuracy."

Despite bringing up the short-QB comparison, Ireland swiftly poo-pooed associating Haener with Brees and instead preferred to contrast the Bulldog with Bryce Young, who was selected No. 1 overall by the Carolina Panthers.

"I mean there's only going to be one of those guys forever," Ireland said of Brees. "You can't really compare him, and I'm always careful to use the comparison because he doesn't compare to Drew, he's the only one. But there are some similarities that make you feel like, OK, maybe he can play similarly to that person. And you thought, OK, well you got another short quarterback in the league, you got Bryce Young. He just got picked first in the draft. What if Jake's in that offense (at Alabama)? I just think, hypothetically, Jake would have success if he's at Alabama."

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry Christmas.

Unlike Young, who should start out of the gate, Haener will spend the year learning and developing behind Carr and Winston. The hope in New Orleans is that Carr drives the Saints to the postseason in 2023 with Winston as his backup. Then Haener can take over the primary backup role next season, with Winston hitting free agency. Perhaps Haener might get a chance as the starting gig down the road. But barring injuries, the Saints are married to Carr for at least the next two seasons -- and likely three years.

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