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After Further Review: Five takes on Jameis Winston’s return to the Saints

Published: Mar. 21, 2022 at 4:54 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 21, 2022 at 4:58 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Coming back to Winston

After swinging and missing on Deshaun Watson, the Saints turned back to Jameis Winston. On the surface, this looked like it could be an awkward situation. The Saints essentially wanted an upgrade from Winston, didn’t get it, then came back to him. The NFL can be a brutal and humbling business.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston looks for a receiver during the first half of an...
New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston looks for a receiver during the first half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 25, 2021, in Seattle. Winston's season ended with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Oct. 31. (AP Photo/John Froschauer, File)(John Froschauer | AP)

However, the relationship clearly didn’t reach the point of no return, or Winston wouldn’t be returning.

From the football side, the Saints know Winston inside and out. He’s been in the building now for two full seasons. Though he wasn’t perfect last season, he was able to minimize his mistakes.

Above all else, there’s a blueprint for victories with him at quarterback. If Winston is able to replicate what he did a season ago, there’s no reason the Saints shouldn’t have success. Winston’s return also fits in with the Saints theme of continuity this offseason.

Take Two: Good contract despite tepid market

Though there may have been hard feelings about the Watson chase, Winston did about as well as he can expect from a financial standpoint.

Two years, $28 million with $21 million guaranteed is a good deal for Winston.

Of all the things that transpired this offseason, my biggest miscalculation was the market for Winston. Frankly, I thought he’d have more teams interested. That turned out not to be the case, at least not enough for any realistic offer. Maybe there were more behind the scenes but none of them went public. Plus, no other team seemed could guarantee Winston a shot as starting quarterback.

The Saints could. Even if there are hurt feelings, Winston didn’t appear to have better options. In New Orleans, he’ll have a decent contract and be one of 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL. That should be enough to sooth over any hurt and get back to a solid working relationship.

Take Three: Injury doesn’t appear to be a concern

What this contract also demonstrates is the Saints feel confident in Winston’s health. Winston tore his knee on Halloween day against Tampa Bay. He’s now almost five full months into his rehab.

We’ve all seen the social media workout videos where he’s clearly progressing in his recovery. But the Saints aren’t going have this kind of confidence based solely on what Winston’s team puts out on Instagram. They had to have full belief, based on their own evaluations, that Winston will have no limitations by training camp, or at the very latest the start of the season.

Take Four: NFC landscape

A quick scan of the NFC shows three elite quarterbacks: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford.

Throw in Kyler Murray and Dak Prescott as young talented players. Besides that, who really has their franchise guy in house? Minnesota with Kirk Cousins?

In fact, it seems like there are more players in similar situations to Winston. Marcus Mariota, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz all join Winston as former high draft picks looking to revive their respective careers. The true star power is in the AFC.

Point being, the road to the postseason in the conference may not be quite as difficult as it once was.

Take Five: Other Observations

- We’ll never know just how close Sean Payton was to truly giving Winston the keys to the offense a season ago. I’ll be very curious to see how Dennis Allen approaches that aspect this season with Winston.

- In my opinion, Winston’s signing does not prevent them from drafting a quarterback. More than anything else, the Saints want to find someone they can give the franchise to for the next decade. Until someone demonstrates that they can definitively be that, they must give themselves as many options as possible.

- Based on the conversations I’ve had, the Saints didn’t have much interest in Baker Mayfield. They decided against Jimmy Garappolo due to his late offseason shoulder surgery.

- Winston’s $14 million per season ranks 16th in the NFL for starting quarterbacks.

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