Last offseason, Jameis Winston signed a 1-year, $1.1 million deal to join the New Orleans Saints as a backup quarterback. Winston cited that he joined New Orleans, opposed to other teams, to learn from Sean Payton and Drew Brees after a rollercoaster beginning to his career in Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Well, we have a Hall of Fame quarterback (Drew Brees) and a future Hall of Fame coach (Sean Payton). That is very intriguing for a young quarterback like myself.”
The former first overall draft selection started 70 games for the Buccaneers and threw for almost 20,000 yards and 121 touchdowns in five seasons. However, he tossed 88 interceptions (30 in 2019) and only won 40% of his starts.
Winston came to New Orleans to improve his decision making and become a more polished passer. Now that the 2020 season has come and gone, what type of contract will the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner earn in 2020?
PROJECTED MONETARY VALUE
Based on a value projection model I created that balances individual statistics with team success, Winston's contract projects to occupy 4.86% of a team’s salary cap, which converts to an average annual salary between $8.4 and $9.5 million* for 2021. The prediction is based on Winston’s 2018 and 2019 seasons, as only the Saints saw his possible progression made in 2020.
Lacking extensive time on the field in 2020 will cause many franchises to be wary of Winston after his uneven 2019 season and force him to have a reasonable price tag for the Saints or other interested teams.
"We had a great exposure for one year with Jameis Winston… I really like what we had a chance to see. He was a tremendous leader for this team, and that’s hard to do when you come in new in free agency, your first year, as a backup quarterback… Him (Winston) along with Taysom Hill, who is in the building, we’ve said it all along: We’re going to develop and coach these guys, and Jameis is one of those guys we have big interest in.”
Considering the 2013 National Champion’s untapped potential, New Orleans will undoubtedly be interested in retaining Winston, especially for a price under $10 million per season.
After signing with the Saints last offseason, Winston parted ways with his agent Joel Segal. Reports said Winston was unhappy with Segal's progress during the free-agency period, which led to Winston signing his short and incentive-laden deal with New Orleans. As the former Buccaneer will be returning to the negotiating table in 2021 with a new agent, he may be more motivated to receive a multi-year contract. To achieve this goal, Winston would most likely have to sacrifice some possible average annual value to gain the security of a longer deal.
Winston will enter his seventh season in the NFL at age 27 when the 2021 season rolls around. He is still young when considering many quarterbacks play well into their late 30s. However, only one quarterback in the past four seasons received a contract more than two years in length when not starting under center for most of the prior season.
With that said, Winston should garner a one-to-two-year contract based on his 2018-2019 output and backup role with the Saints in 2020. Winston has all the tools needed to be a franchise quarterback, which makes him an attractive option. However, he has not proven he deserves a long-term contract due to his inconsistent decision making and high interception total.
According to my model, Winston should earn a deal worth around $9 million per season. However, the 2015 Pro Bowler will expect and possibly command more in free agency. He changed his agents and could land a large contract.
Winston’s contract situation is similar to what former Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater experienced two years ago. Both quarterbacks only received significant playing time in only one game. Yet, the quarterbacks already had extensive playing time from the clubs that originally drafted them in the first round.
Bridgewater's knee injury derailed his progression while Winston's interception rate failed him in Tampa Bay. Bridgewater re-signed with New Orleans for 1-year, $7.25M contract to play in 2019. Would Winston consider signing a similar contract?
Based upon the news the Saints renegotiated Drew Brees' current contract to free cap space, which could signal the team extending an offer to Winston. Sean Payton remarked on his desire to sign Winston to a contract on the Pick Six Podcast with Will Brinson.
After Payton’s comments over the past few weeks, there is no doubt New Orleans will be interested in bringing back Winston, especially if they cannot land an established commodity at the position. The former Florida State quarterback is alluring to the Saints because of the team’s sticky salary cap situation, as the signal-caller will have a modest price tag this offseason.
If Jameis re-signs in free agency, expect a quarterback competition between Winston and Taysom Hill at Saints training camp in August. Hill will earn $16 million in 2021. His unique playmaking ability, coupled with his quarterbacking skills, brings value to the team. Both players would then obtain the opportunity to impress the coaching staff and earn the starting job in 2021.
*The range of Winston’s cap figure is due to the uncertainty of the 2021 NFL salary cap.*
The article was written by Saints News Network Intern Andrew Gullotta.
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