Saints Rumors: Drew Brees to Retire; Jameis Winston 'In Driver's Seat' to Start

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2021

New Orleans Saints' Jameis Winston warms up before an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Jameis Winston is reportedly in the "driver's seat" to take over as the New Orleans Saints' starting quarterback for 2021 following the expected retirement of Drew Brees.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported Sunday the Saints "really liked" how Winston performed during practice this past season, giving him the inside edge over Taysom Hill:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

A @NFLGameDay Notebook with @TomPelissero: Will the #Eagles trade QB Carson Wentz; The #Texans staring contest with QB Deshaun Watson; The #Saints future is either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill; The #Cowboys will tag Dak Prescott... unless they get a deal done. https://t.co/zsYMPsSAvT

New Orleans caused a stir in November when it elevated Hill to the starting role instead of Winston, who'd been serving as the chief reserve while the BYU product filled his usual multifaceted role within the team's offense, after Brees suffered fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.

Hill performed well across four starts. He completed 82 of his 114 throws (71.9 percent) for 834 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He added 209 rushing yards and four scores on the ground while leading the Saints to a 3-1 record.

The Idaho native also reiterated his desire to become a full-time quarterback in the future.

"Coach [Sean Payton] and I have had—we've had a few conversations about that," Hill told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk in December. "And I have said that. He knows how I feel about how I can play and I know how he feels about me, too."

Winston only threw 11 passes during the regular season but he was called on for one play in the Saints' Divisional Round loss to the NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, delivering a 56-yard touchdown throw to Tre'Quan Smith that gave New Orleans the lead in the second quarter.

The team will have to re-sign the former Bucs starter if they're going to move him atop the depth chart. He played the 2020 season under a one-year, $1.1 million contract.

If Brees does confirm his retirement—Payton told Will Brinson of the Pick Six Podcast he expects a decision in the next few weeks—the Saints will likely hope next season features a full training camp and preseason slate for the coaching staff to fully evaluate the quarterback competition.

Along with Winston, 27, and Hill, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the team bring in a rookie through the draft with an eye toward the future.