When the Saints signed Jameis Winston back in 2020, both sides knew what the deal was all about. The Saints understood they were getting a solid backup on a cheap deal, while Winston knew he had an opportunity to prove himself and compete for a future starting job.
Winston came off one of the most perplexing and embarrassing seasons for a quarterback ever. Despite throwing for over 5,100 yards, Winston also became the first quarterback to ever throw for over 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a season. As he was phased out of Tampa Bay, the Saints were the perfect landing spot to rebuild his career. The Saints provided “a Harvard education in quarterback school” as Winston put it. The Saints offered an experienced quarterback room with a solid offensive staff. What more could you ask for?
Winston has had a positive impact on the Saints. Head Coach Sean Payton has praised Winston for his locker room presence and growth in maturity. The Saints were so impressed by Winston that they resigned the quarterback to a 1-year, $12M deal. Was it justifiable?
The Saints made the best move by resigning Winston, and there are many reasons why.
Firstly, this is a really solid deal for both parties. Winston likely would have landed spots at other teams, like Chicago, for much more money. Instead, Winston took a discount for a chance at a place where he feels comfortable. The Saints essentially snagged a young quarterback for a nice discount and did so without trading away assets for an already proven-but-older quarterback. If Winston wins the starting job and performs well, he will likely land a massive contract and the Saints find their guy.
Winston has the potential to be successful at the quarterback position. He has the measurables, the stature of a pocket passer, and the arm talent of a gifted passer. Winston’s past problems at Tampa Bay are still certainly a cause for concern. Turnovers don’t win games, and the Saints are trying to get in a spot to compete at a high level once again. However, if any NFL coach is to transform Winston into a winning quarterback, it’s Sean Payton. Sean Payton is more likely to make a Winston-offense excel than any other coach. I doubt Winston is bound to repeat his 30 interception season, especially under an offensive mastermind like Sean Payton.
It’s also important to note that the Saints are 8-1 without Drew Brees the past two seasons, going 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater in 2019 and 3-1 with Taysom Hill last season. The Saints knew how to win games without the prolific Drew Brees. The Saints roster will be worse in 2021, but it certainly won’t be enough to prohibit Winston and Co. to stay competitive.
Signing Jameis Winston is, admittedly, a risky move. However, some moves are worth the risk, and the Saints feel the same way. At best, the Saints have either found their future quarterback. At worse, the Saints have kept a guy that will at least keep the team competitive. For Winston and New Orleans, this isn’t a bad situation at all, especially after Brees’ retirement. The Saints will find out what Winston brings to the table next season.