Jameis Winston to New Orleans: What Does Winston Offer the Saints?
The New Orleans Saints are finalizing a one-year deal with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston after signing quarterback/athlete Taysom Hill to a two-year extension worth up to $21 million. Winston will compete with Hill to be the primary backup to Drew Brees, who also signed a two-year deal last month for $50 million.
Winston is fresh off leading the league with 5,109 passing yards and setting a career-high with 33 touchdowns. But he also tossed a league-worst 30 interceptions, which is more than 26 teams had in fumbles lost and interceptions combined in 2019. Winston became the first "30-30" quarterback in league history, and the Saints wanted some insurance following former backup Teddy Bridgewater's departure to the Carolina Panthers.
With Hill's ability to line up in the slot, out wide, or times as the Wildcat quarterback or running back, Winston finds himself in a best-case situation after his departure from Tampa.
Welcome to the Big Easy
Before Brees heads to an NBC booth, Winston will have a season to learn under the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards (77,416) and touchdowns (547). In 2019, Brees missed five games (and most of a sixth) with a torn right thumb, his first season missing more than one game since 2003.
Teddy Bridgewater filled as the starter during those five-plus games, while Hill remained in his typical gadget role, with one pass attempt, four receptions, and 10 rush attempts over that span. He'll likely see a similar role if Brees goes down in 2020 with Winston in town.
Winston's expected one-year signing is pretty identical to how the Saints approached Bridgewater last year, giving him a one-year fully guarantee deal. This could be a formula New Orleans is using until they find their replacement for Brees, rather than drafting late in the first round or trading up.
The Saints' passing game approach doesn't change regardless of who's under center, and that was evident last season -- Brees averaged 34.3 pass attempts per game to Bridgewater's 32.6. If you told Winston he would throw 39.1 attempts per game for 5,109 yards and then play with the best wide receiver in the NFL the following season, he wouldn't have believed you and neither would I.
Michael Thomas set the NFL record for receptions with 149 in 2019 and led the league with 1,725 receiving yards. Winston could do damage with Thomas if Brees went down, but that's not the only weapon in the Saints' supporting cast. New Orleans signed Emmanuel Sanders to a two-year deal, giving them a legitimate No. 2 wide receiver opposite of Thomas for the first time since Brandin Cooks. Running back Alvin Kamara is a top-tier weapon both out the backfield or lined up in the slot, catching exactly 81 passes for three consecutive seasons.
Winston earned a 68.4 passing grade from Pro Football Focus, and he's tied for the most turnover worthy plays (40) in a single-season since 2006. If Sean Payton and the Saints can coach out the mistakes and assist him in reading and reacting to the right decisions, there's no question Winston could thrive in New Orleans. Brees has thrown five 5,000-yard passing seasons, the most of all-time, and Winston has the talent to accomplish this feat more than once.
The former No. 1 overall pick had 27 touchdowns to 16 interceptions in a clean pocket last year compared to 6 touchdowns and 14 interceptions under pressure. He also threw seven pick-sixes last year, an NFL record. The Saints finished fifth in PFF's offensive line rankings last season, and they used their first round pick on Cesar Ruiz, a center out of Michigan to beef up the protection up front.
Winston should thrive as a backup in New Orleans and if gets his opportunity as starter -- expect there to be immediate fireworks and points for one or both teams.