Quarterback dominoes are falling Monday. After missing out on Deshaun Watson, the Saints are moving back to a familiar face. Jameis Winston is close to an agreement to return to New Orleans, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets.
Despite his midseason ACL tear, Winston will do well for himself. The Saints are giving the former No. 1 overall pick a two-year deal worth $28MM, Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com add (via Twitter). That is the base value, with $21MM set to be guaranteed.
The Saints had discussed a deal with Winston before becoming full-fledged finalists for Watson. Winston remained on the team’s radar as a fallback option, though the ex-Buccaneers starter said he talked with the Colts as well. Indianapolis has since traded for Matt Ryan, filling its latest QB1 vacancy. This stands to be Winston’s third deal with the Saints, who re-signed him to a one-year, $5.5MM pact in 2021.
Although Michael Thomas‘ season-long absence reduced the Saints’ receiving corps to arguably the NFL’s worst, Winston still was at 14 touchdown passes and three interceptions when he went down in New Orleans’ seventh game. The Saints were 5-2 in Winston’s starts but 4-6 without him. The team is also expected to abandon its multiyear Taysom Hill-at-quarterback experiment, clearing the runway for Winston to avoid a competition with the high-profile gadget player.
Winston, 28, came to New Orleans as Drew Brees‘ backup in 2020, replacing Teddy Bridgewater in that role. The former high-variance Bucs starter will face an interesting transition this year, with Sean Payton having retired. The team is retaining longtime OC Pete Carmichael, who is in line to call plays post-Payton. The Saints will not be devoting much money to their starting quarterback, but missing out on Watson still leaves the team without a true long-term signal-caller option. Winston will try to fill that void.