Next season, the New Orleans Saints will take the field for the first time in 17 seasons without both future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton under employment.
Brees retired prior to the 2021-22 NFL season, and Payton decided to step away about a month ago. That leaves new head coach Dennis Allen with a bevy of question marks on the offensive side. The main one being what to do at QB? The most sensible answer would be to bring back 2015 No.1 overall pick Jameis Winston. Winston won the open QB competition over Tayson Hill prior to the 2021 season.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) March 23, 2021
Winston showed great command of the offense, going 5-2 as the starter before he tore his ACL in week 8 against the Buccaneers. He passed for 1,170 yards, 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions, and had a QB rating of 102.0. The team struggled once the 2019 NFL passing yards leader went down and limped to 9-8, just barely missing the playoffs. The aforementioned Hill and others at the QB position didn’t play nearly as well as Winston.
#Saints QB Jameis Winston does, in fact, have a torn ACL, source said after the MRI. He is out for the season. There is also damage to the MCL.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 1, 2021
Winston was in the second year of a two-year prove-it deal when he got hurt. Now, the Saints need a QB, and, according to Jim Trotter of the NFL Network, Winston is still a comfortable fit.
“They’re going to explore every option as it relates to the position, meaning the draft, trades and free agency. But if they go the free agency route, the quarterback that makes the most since is Jameis Winston. He’s been in the system for two years. They’ve taken the time to develop him, he has a relationship with offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who will be calling plays. … My understanding is, if they have not already opened contract talks with him, they will very shortly.”
Allen Knows The Importance Of Having The Right QB At The Helm:
New head coach Dennis Allen knows that quarterback position has to be upgraded. Winston didn’t get a full season to prove he was the man for the job. The Saints defense carried the team last year, including a 9-0 shutout of the Bucs with Allen at the helm filling in for Payton, who was out with COVID-19. New Orleans will be strong on that side of the ball again, but the key to how far they can go largely depends on whoever is chosen to run the offense.
Allen discussed that very situation following his hiring.
“That’s going to be one of the first things that we do … get together as a staff, as an organization, and evaluate that position. And then we’ll make the best decision for the organization. We want a winner. A guy that’s got tireless work ethic, a guy that can help lead men. That’s what I see in the quarterback position. But that’s something we’ve certainly got to figure out.”
Is Winston The Best Available Free Agent QB?
CBS Sports NFL Insider Ryan Harris thinks this is a “no-brainer” for the Saints. He says Winston will probably get “a 3 year deal probably in that 65 to 70 million dollar range.”
"I love Jameis Winston … this is a no-brainer, that's gonna be a 3 year deal probably in that 65 to 70 million dollar range."
– Super Bowl Champ Ryan Harris @CBSSports
— Author Jameis1of1 (@jameis1of1) February 24, 2022
Winston learned a lot as Brees’ backup in 2020, mainly how to take care of the football. That newfound ball protection was evident as he threw just three interceptions prior to his injury. This after throwing an NFL-high 30 picks during his last season in Tampa.
CFB/NFL analyst Danny Kanell also expressed his confidence in Winston during a segment on CBS Sports HQ.
“I think it’s Jameis Winston, he’s the best option available in this class that’s a true free agent that you go get,” Kanell said. “He’s only 27 years old, and we are talking about the former No.1 overall pick. And the best part about him is, coming off this ACL injury, he’ll be healthy because he’ll have time to heal but you won’t have to break the bank for him. You could even do a shorter-term deal, let him bet on himself, and then you get an extended audition period for him.
“So, he’s still got the upside to me, his intangibles are off the charts. I know he’s been criticized and he’s a player that’s a little bit weird and gets made fun of on Twitter sometimes, but there’s no doubt he’s a hard worker, he gets to the facility early, and I do think his teammates love playing for him, which does matter. So Jameis would be the June one target for me to look at in the free-agent market.”
— ACL Recovery Club (@ACLrecoveryCLUB) January 16, 2022
If Saturday was any indication of Winston returning to New Orleans, he would be doing so with an improved cast. The team restructured the contract of wide receiver Michael Thomas (returning from injury), tackle Ryan Ramczyk and guard Andrus Peat. The restructured money gives them the necessary cap space to re-sign Winston.
Now they need to get a deal done, because there’s no better option without having to give up major draft capital. The Saints will bring in some other quarterbacks to encourage competition, but Winston is a proven entity with endless statistical accomplishments dating back to his Heisman days at Florida State. His intangibles as a leader actually measure favorably, as he’s spoken of fondly by former coaches and players.
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