James Winston continues to impress with his offseason workout videos, and where he lands in 2022 will be something to watch with several teams needing to address their quarterback situation. Naturally, the Saints are one of them, and it appears that things could be heating up.
According to NFL Network’s Jim Trotter last fridaythe Saints are expected to discuss a contract with the impending unrestricted free agent.
“My understanding is if they have not already opened contract talks with him, they will very shortly,” Trotter said.
If that happens, then what could that mean for the Saints going forward?
Winston signed a one-year deal with the Saints last March that was worth up to $12 million. He earned $1.75 million of those incentives in just over six games, which was just a $5.5 million deal with a base salary of $1 million. The $4.5 million signing bonus was prorated over three years, which carries into 2022 and 2023 as voidable years.
While Winston is due some money, the fact is that he could come back at a relatively ‘team-friendly’ deal. That’s not saying that you don’t pay Winston to be more aligned with some of the other quarterbacks, but with figures like Matt Ryan’s $48.6 million cap hit, be a little realistic.
In short, pay Winston more than Taysom Hill, and try to see if you can get him between $15-20 million yearly over the next two seasons. The Saints can easily make this happen through incentives and a lower base with an attractive signing bonus.
Proposed deal: 2-year, $32-35 million contract worth up to $50 million with a $15-18 million signing bonus.
Why It Makes Sense
Winston, who just turned 28 in January, is certainly one of the best options out there in free agency. The other would be Teddy Bridgewater or a sleeper like Marcus Mariota. In essence, the team would need to trade for a proven option, and with the makeup and belief of the roster, drafting someone to start Week 1 doesn’t make sense.
What tends to be an issue is most of the quarterbacks who were thought to be on the move might be staying put or New Orleans isn’t a viable option. That can certainly change, but when you look at what’s out there, Winston makes a ton of sense. Bridgewater does too, and you can’t necessarily hold what he did with Denver against him.
What It Could Mean for Free Agency
Assume you get Winston back on a relatively smart deal, and you’re already getting Michael Thomas back in the mix. Pair that with Marquez Callaway returning and making an easy decision to tender Deonte Harty as a restricted free agent. That’s a good start for an offensive attack that was down in the dumps last season.
You’re going to need more pass-catching weapons, and free agency is a prime opportunity to land a potential high profile player and also an up-and-comer to add to the mix. New Orleans can’t be a team that relies on the production of undrafted players and kicking the tires on veterans at the position. It just didn’t work last season, and some of that can be on the quarterback carousel, but it wasn’t just that.
The Saints are already putting in the work to get under the salary cap, and they’ll have space to figure things out. With next year’s cap expected to be on the rise, it should allow New Orleans to get creative with some of the contracts and backload deals like normal.
Even if the Saints get two good free agent options, that shouldn’t stop them from looking to the draft. This is another good class, and this week’s Scouting Combine is only going to showcase some of that talent.
There’s certainly a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios from last season with the Saints, but the biggest one was what could have been had Winston not been lost for the year. He was catching on to the offense more. He was taking care of business, and the fact that he went 5-2 as a starter with a strong statistical start to the year cannot be overlooked.
We’re almost to March, which means the new season is right around the corner. A lot of moves make sense for the Saints at quarterback, and Winston should remain a strong option to be happy with as we get closer.
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