Jameis Winston’s 2021 NFL free agency bonanza was over before it even started. On the first day of negotiations, the former Florida State star re-joined New Orleans, signing another one-year deal with the Saints.
Winston will earn somewhere between 5.5 million and 12.5 million dollars in 2021 (depending on incentives). But more importantly, he will now be in a serious competition for the starting quarterback job with the Saints. Future hall-of-famer Drew Brees retired Sunday afternoon.
There were multiple occasions this offseason where Saints head coach Sean Payton expressed interest in bringing Winston back and was complimentary of his 2020 season behind the scenes in a reserve role.
Now entering his 15th season in New Orleans, Payton will finally direct an offense not led by Brees, and he spoke Monday on the Dan Patrick Show about whether they were set at the quarterback position.
“I think we are. They’ll be a few calls we make. But our goal coming into the offseason was to obviously re-sign Jameis. Taysom played for us in four games last year. Let those guys go to work and I am excited about it,” said Payton. “I am excited about those two. There are a few things that may still be out there, but I see those two competing for this position.”
Famous Jameis will still have to beat out the aforementioned Hill, the undrafted quarterback out of BYU who has 22 combined passing, rushing, and receiving touchdowns over the past four seasons with the Saints. Patrick asked Payton about his affection for Hill as a gadget quarterback.
“I like Taysom because he loves football, and I like Jameis because he loves football. Those guys are fun to be around,” said Payton, seemingly careful to mention both players.
“Those two are going to be sitting there. Obviously I have told both of them, ‘the two of you are going to compete for this position.’ And they understand it. We’ve already had a chance to see both of them to some degree,” Payton said when asked who the starter will be.
“Last year was important for us relative to Jameis...It gave us a year to evaluate him but it also gave him a year to evaluate us.”
Just last month, Payton called Winston an “incredible leader” in the quarterback room during the 2020 season. After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tossed their all-time leading passer to the side in favor of 6-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, Winston may have a chance to settle the score while competing within the division with the Bucs this fall.
It could be a great situation for the former Heisman Trophy winner and National Champion to step into. In the last four seasons, New Orleans is 49-15 with four straight playoff appearances. ESPN analyst and former NFL MVP Kurt Warner said Winston’s ability to “not be conservative, but be judicial with the football” will be key.
Skeptics will point to Winston’s 30 interceptions in 2019, while glossing over the numerous positive statistical accomplishments so far in his career. Mike Florio of Profootballtalk.com and NBC Sports says there still a chance for the man who threw for 19,737 passing yards and 121 touchdowns in five seasons with Tampa Bay to revitalize his career.
“Let’s not just write this guy off because he had a 30-interception season. He still has shown that he can be good, and he is with a quarterback coach who can make him great.
Fellow ESPN analyst and NFL veteran Torrey Smith said the “Saints can 100 percent win the Super Bowl with Jameis Winston at quarterback.” Louis Reddick echoed those sentiments, explaining that “they can be probably even more explosive because of the fact that Jameis has very unique capabilities as far as throwing the football.”
NFL.com editor Gregg Rosenthal wrote “this is Jameis Winston’s chance” in his reactions to Monday’s free agency moves.
Only time will tell if Winston will be under center for the Saints Week 1 in September. But as of March, he certainly has the inside track to become the starter for one of the more consistently excellent NFL franchises of the past two decades.