TAMPA — It’s one of Jameis Winston’s most repeated phrases: minor setback for a major comeback.
And apparently, that’s what is behind his decision to restart his NFL career with the New Orleans Saints.
According to Charles Robinson of Yahoos Sports, Winston is finalizing a one-year deal with the Saints.
Barring an injury, it’s unlikely Winston will see much playing time in 2020. But this is expected to be the final season for Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Winston won’t be paid much money relative to the nearly $20.1 million he banked from the Bucs in 2019. The Saints have just over $5 million in salary-cap space, not even enough to sign their draft picks without making some cuts.
But Winston’s decision to sign with the Saints would signal willingness to take a step back in order to restart his career.
Not only would he being joining a winning organization and the three-time defending NFC South champions, but he would have a year to be coached by Sean Payton, one of the best play-callers in the league.
Brees is 41 and expected to retire after playing his 20th season. He already has a job waiting for him at NBC when he is done playing.
The Saints also tendered quarterback Taysom Hill a one-year, $4.7 million contract for 2020 that he hasn’t signed, even though the deadline passed for Hill to go elsewhere. Hill is expected to start the season as the Saints No. 2 quarterback but is exposed to injury in his versatile role with the offense.
On Sunday, the Saints signed Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens, whose skill set is closer to Hill’s.
The backup quarterback market hasn’t been too robust for Winston or former Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. It could pick up now that the NFL draft has been completed.
Winston led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards and had 33 touchdowns last season, both career highs. But he also threw 30 interceptions and lost five fumbles, resulting in 112 points off turnovers. The Bucs were able to replace Winston with Tom Brady, who signed a two-year, $50 million contract.
But Winston is only 26 with five years experience as a starter. His record is 28-42, but consider that the Bucs have not reached the playoffs in 12 seasons, so not all of the losing can be pinned on Winston.
Learning from Payton and being exposed to Brees can only help Winston on and off the field.
It certainly didn’t hurt Teddy Bridgewater. Stepping in for Brees after he injured his thumb against the Rams, Bridgewater went 5-0 as a starter for the Saints last season and recently signed a three-year, $63 million contract to be the Carolina Panthers’ starting quarterback.
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Hill is 30 and has only attempted 13 passes in his NFL career. He is used mostly in short-yardage and goal-line packages, often as a running back or receiver.
An added bonus is that Winston’s new team gets to compete against the Bucs in the NFC South twice a year.
It’s a setback for Winston, to be sure. But it feels like more of a reset to his career.