Will the Saints sign Jameis Winston?
The soap-opera pursuit of Deshaun Watson has ended and the New Orleans Saints are making overtures to their long-suffering quarterback, but is it too late?
There is an uncomfortable truth that must be faced in New Orleans. We must face the fact that if Sean Payton was still the head coach, then there is no way, no way, that the Saints would have made any play whatsoever for Deshaun Watson.
No, this isn’t a dig at the morality of contracting Watson with the pending lawsuits hanging over his head. And, no, this isn’t to demean his ability under center. Watson is a marvellous talent on any offense. But in making overtures toward him, the Saints have ignored the quarterback that they already had, a quarterback, it must be remembered, that was hand-picked by Sean Payton.
Jameis Winston was Sean Payton’s guy. Almost as divisive amongst the Who Dat nation as Deshaun Watson, he spent the back end of the season out with an ACL tear. But his bona fides are worthy of taking note here. A national champion and Heisman trophy winner at Florida State, he did some fantastic things with Tampa Bay between his being drafted in 2015 and being supplanted by Tom Brady after the 2019 season.
He was named Rookie of the Year in 2015 and went to the Pro Bowl that year, the first Buccaneers rookie quarterback ever to be selected. Even in 2019, the last year before Tom Brady took his job, he led the NFL in passing yards. So he was definitely not “on the slide”; he has more tale to tell in his story.
“I definitely think he’s got a second act in him. He’s a young player. He came into this league with every accolade you could have. He’s a tremendous teammate and worker. The two years we were together were fantastic,” says Sean Payton when asked about Winston.
Payton has no time at all for the critics who wrote Winston off after his stint in Tampa Bay. “There became this lazy, easy narrative about his interceptions. I totally understand it, but that was a part of a team. He was a part of that, there are a lot of dirty hands with a statistic like that.”
During their time together in 2021, Jameis settled in and got control over the turnovers, and Payton was very impressed with Jameis Winston’s mobility. “The thing that he does that really is sometimes hard to gauge until you watch him is, he’s strong in the pocket. He’ll climb out of something, he’ll come out of a sack and find a throw off schedule maybe. Occasionally he would keep it and he’d have these long steps where he would gain 14 yards. There would be, in every game, two or three of these extended plays.”
Now, with Watson out of the picture, the Saints have to face up to the world that they have had a large hand in creating. Jameis is still on the cards, but as their second choice. An also-ran. For anyone, let alone a competitor of Winston’s caliber, that stings. The Saints can either continue the hunt, perhaps sign a Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo, or they can focus on the man they should have focused on from the get-go.
There are no good outcomes to this. Either Winston will feel, rightly, hard done by, or the Saints can let him go and make do with a quarterback that will come with the same baggage. Jimmy G has been treated by the 49ers in the same way as Jameis Winston has by the Saints. Baker Mayfield’s complaints in Cleveland are perhaps less clearly one-sided. I mean, he was the one who cut the ties, after all. But the chip on his shoulder will be just as domineering as Winston’s is.
Will the Saints pursue Jameis Winston? That is almost less important than the question, will Jameis Winston consider the Saints? I hope that he will, honestly I do. I am all-in team Jameis, but I would not be surprised at all if he doesn’t. And if he doesn’t, it will be exactly what the Saints deserve.