TAMPA ― That Harvard quarterback school in New Orleans is pretty darned expensive.
Jameis Winston on Tuesday reeled off the reasons why he chose to sign a 1-year contract with the Saints. A chance to learn from Drew Brees. (He described the Saints quarterback room as “a Harvard education in quarterback school.'') An opportunity to be coached by Sean Payton. He likes the color gold.
But money sure wasn’t one of them.
According Spotrac.com, Winston signed a deal with the Saints that will pay him $1.1 million for 2020. It includes a $148,000 signing bonus and a base salary of $952,000. If he plays, Winston could earn as much as $3.4 million in available incentives.
The $1.1 million salary is less than he made each week last season playing for the Bucs.
That’s a staggering pay cut for the No. 1 overall pick in 2015 with five years of starting experience. Winston led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards and a career-high 33 touchdowns this past season.
Winston earned about $20.1 million in 2019 and has made more than $46 million in his career.
“Being a quarterback, you have to be a student of the game," Winston said during a Zoom conference call Wednesday. “So now, I actually get a chance to dive into that more, and I actually have a Hall-of-Fame quarterback that I’m learning from, as opposed to trying to learn by myself or use Google.”
Who knows what other opportunities Winston had after he threw 30 interceptions, lost five fumbles and watched opponents score 112 points off his turnovers last season.
By comparison, former Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, who lost his job after six games last season to Ryan Tannehill, signed a two-year, $17.6-million deal with the Raiders as the No. 2 behind Derek Carr. Mariota will earn $7.5 million guaranteed in 2020. He was picked second overall in 2015, one spot behind Winston.
In fact, a couple days before signing Winston, the Saints gave quarterback Taysom Hill a two-year deal worth $21 million with $16 million guaranteed. Hill also plays running back, receiver and on special teams.
In pro sports, the value of a contract often is used to approximate your status within the NFL. The league minimum salary for all players with 4-6 years experience is $910,000.
"I wanted to put my ego aside, put the money aside and think about my family, think about my career,'' Winston said. "It was no better position than to be in the same room with someone that I’ve really looked up to, someone that I admired since I’ve been playing this game in Drew Brees.''
Winston said his vision has improved after undergoing LASIK surgery to correct nearsightedness and says he can read license plates and street signs now.
He may not believe his eyes when he reads his weekly paycheck.