Sean Payton on Jameis Winston: Saints 'Have a Tremendous Interest' in QB

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2021

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) passes during an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said Wednesday that the Saints have interest in re-signing quarterback Jameis Winston. 

Payton discussed Winston as part of a wide-ranging conversation on NFL Network's Good Morning Football:

New Orleans Saints @Saints

Sean Payton was on @GMFB this morning! He discussed the #Saints QB position, motivating young players, and evaluating Patrick Mahomes going into the NFL Draft https://t.co/9Q8WxYLfxk

Per GMFB's Peter Schrager, Payton said: "We had enough time to see what we had with Jameis Winston as a leader. He was tremendous with this team, and that's hard to do new with free agency when you come in as a backup. He is a free agent. But Jameis is a guy we have a tremendous interest in."

After spending the first five years of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Winston served as Drew Brees' backup in New Orleans in 2020.

Winston was the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, and while he showed flashes of big-time potential in Tampa, he was far too inconsistent.

The 2019 season was a microcosm of his NFL career, as he led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards and threw a career-high 33 touchdown passes but also led the NFL with 30 interceptions. That tied him for the seventh-most interceptions in a single season in NFL history and the most since Vinny Testaverde threw 35 in 1988.

As a result, Tampa decided to move on from Winston and sign Tom Brady, which is a decision that paid dividends, as the Buccaneers will play in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

With no starting jobs available to Winston, he signed a one-year deal to sit and learn behind one of the all-time great NFL quarterbacks in Brees.

Winston, 27, attempted just 11 passes during the 2020 regular season, throwing for 75 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. In the NFC divisional round of the playoffs against his former team, Winston threw a 56-yard touchdown pass on a trick play, however.

While it seemed that Winston would serve as the primary backup to Brees in 2020, it was Taysom Hill who started four games during the regular season when Brees landed on the shelf with broken ribs and a collapsed lung.

That may have been a case of the Saints wanting to see if Hill had what it took to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. The jury may still be out on that front, and the Saints having intertest in bringing back Winston could be a sign that they don't view Hill as a QB1.

While Brees has yet to make an official announcement regarding his status, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that he has likely played his final game.

Given the lack of viable options that will be available in free agency or to the Saints in the draft with the No. 28 overall pick, it will likely come down to Winston or Hill as their starter under center in 2021.

There are still questions about Winston's consistency and whether he can cut down on the turnovers over the course of a full season as a starter, but given his talent level and the success of Payton's offensive system, it could turn out to be a fine fit.