New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston was on the cusp of making a major playoff push when he tore his ACL in Week 8. His absence stunted the Saints’ success, as Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, and Ian Book failed to pick up where Winston left off, and New Orleans missed the playoffs. Now, Winston might need to settle for a short-term contract in free agency.
Jameis Winston: Free Agency Overview
If healthy, Winston could be a worthwhile quarterback consolation prize for the teams who miss out on Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson in potential blockbuster trades.
Recapping Winston’s 2021 season
Winston returned to New Orleans on a one-year deal last season in the wake of Drew Brees’ retirement. The former first overall pick got off to an impressive start, completing 59% of his passes and posting 1,170 yards, 14 touchdowns, and just 3 interceptions in the first seven games of the season.
However, while facing his former squad, the Buccaneers, Winston injured his knee on a horse-collar tackle by linebacker Devin White. He tore multiple ligaments in his knee, including his ACL. The Saints were 5-2 at the time.
After Winston was placed on the injured reserve, the Saints nosedived with Hill, Siemian, and Book failing to fill the void. New Orleans finished 9-8 and missed the playoffs.
Winston’s contract estimate and salary cap implications
As a former top overall pick, Winston has made $52.8 million during his seven-year career. He earned $5.5 million last season with the Saints, according to Spotrac. While he is coming off knee surgery, he could see a raise due to the market and the progress he showed before his injury last year.
He is likely to hit the open market without issue, as the Saints have easily the worst cap situation in the NFL. Even after making a series of moves on February 26, New Orleans was still projected to be $49.9 million over the salary cap threshold this season. Thus, Winston is likely to head elsewhere.
Possible landing spots for Winston
Despite coming off major knee surgery, Winston is probably the most intriguing free agent quarterback on the market. While his accuracy and turnover issues have been apparent throughout his career, Winston seemingly made great strides before his injury last season. Winston has always had the physical tools and big-play ability to succeed in the NFL, but improving his accuracy and ball-security woes are still major coaching points.
Several teams will line up to potentially trade for Rodgers or Wilson this offseason. If Watson — accused of sexual misconduct by 22 massage therapists — clears his legal hurdles, he will also be a sought-after quarterback on the trade market.
Teams that can’t afford or miss out on that trio could turn their attention to Winston, who will be looking for a starting job. The Indianapolis Colts — rumored to be moving on from Carson Wentz –, Houston Texans, Washington Commanders, and Cleveland Browns could look to sign Winston to push their current QB room.
What they’re saying about Winston
“I think that’s kind of a ‘beauty in the eye of the beholder’ [situation], especially at that position. It’s going to come down to fit, need, and supply and demand. … I think the amount of games he’s played and started helps him more than anything else.” — Longtime NFL scout to Pro Football Network on Winston’s free agent outlook.