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Do The Saints Have Their Franchise Quarterback?

Jameis Winston has seemed to find a career revival after joining the Saints in the 2019 offseason. In a small sample size with the team, we have seen some ups and downs in his play, and it raises the question. Is Jameis the long-term answer for the Saints?

A Former Saints Foe

Jameis Winston was drafted with the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Saints’ biggest rival as of late. In his five-year stint with the team, he threw for 19,737 yards, 242 touchdowns, and 88 interceptions while completing 61.64 percent of his passes to go along with an average quarterback rating of 87.4

Most notably, Winston fielded one of the most iconic quarterback seasons in the league’s history in the 30/30 year in 2019 where he threw for 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions, the most fans have seen in recent memory.

He had a career record of 28-44 in his time with Tampa Bay, as they were consistently bottom feeding with Winston under center.

Finding A New Life With The Saints

The Saints signed Winston in the 2019 offseason. He would proceed to go to the Drew Brees school of quarterbacks for a season, sitting behind one of the all-time greats at the position. After winning the starting job, Winston would come out on fire to start the 2021 season, starting with a record of 6-2 and throwing 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Unfortunately, the Cinderella story for the eater of W’s would be cut short by none other than his former teammate Devin White, who had no nice words to say about his former quarterback.

Despite the ACL injury he suffered in week eight of the 2021 season, the fan-favorite had fans itching to see him hit the field once more to handle unfinished business.

Fast forward to today. The Saints brought in several weapons for Winston to throw to. The offense should be more productive than last year, which is not a difficult feat. But we have not quite seen that. However, Winston has a record of 6-3 with the Saints. A 16:6 TD: INT ratio and one bad performance coming in week two against the Bucs so far. He has limited the turnovers ever since he has been with the squad, and this was his first BAD game. Where does he go from here?

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Winston’s Future With The Saints

In the offseason, the Saints signed Winston to a two-year/$28 million deal with $21 million guaranteed. A short-term contract that doesn’t break the bank spells out that Winston is on a “prove it” contract for the team over the next two years.

What will he have to do to “prove it”, though?

The Saints have seen some flashes of greatness, last year in a blowout win against the Packers, Winston threw for five touchdowns including a deep shot to Deonte Harty. In week one against the Falcons, the Saints offense put together a comeback performance in the fourth quarter that showed the potential of the offense going forward.

What Winston was able to do in these games was limit the turnovers and take advantage of opportunities without playing hero ball. In the game against the Buccaneers, Chris Olave had a step on the defense over the top on multiple occasions, and Winston had only hit him one time when the game was basically over.

13 targets for Chris Olave today. Jameis Winston said, "I missed him. I just got to hit it. When you have opportunities like that, you have to hit him. Chris did a great job of creating separation and getting open, but I'll get better. Those are going to be touchdowns real soon." — John Hendrix (@JohnJHendrix) September 18, 2022

Hero ball was the downfall for Saints as he would go on to force throws that would end up as interceptions, one becoming a pick-six.

Alternative Options For The Saints

As we have seen so far in the post-Brees era, there have been soaring highs and there have been deep lows. The highs resulted when Winston was on the field, and as far as the lows go, he has not been there for many of them.

After the carousel of QB play in 2021, we saw how important Winston was to the Saints’ offense. When Trevor Siemian, Taysom Hill, and Ian Book, who are all no longer on the team/not playing quarterback, the offense was abysmal. They ranked toward the bottom of the league in passing offense and only won games because of the position the defense would put them in.

New Orleans went 9-8 and barely missed the playoffs last season and Winston was the starter for more than half of their wins. Seeing numbers like that makes me want to see Winston get another crack at it if he can stay healthy, which is already a concern, as he is playing through 4 fractures in his back.

If Winston is to get hurt again though, who could the Saints go with?

Andy Dalton is a serviceable backup who was once the face of a Bengals team who went notched five consecutive playoff appearances. In these playoff appearances, Dalton would throw one touchdown to six interceptions. So even at his best, he was not producing in the playoffs, which is what a team is looking for in their franchise player.

Taysom Hill is now a tight end for the team, and his quarterback experiment is over.

The Saints could trade for some quarterbacks, sign upcoming free agents, or look into next year’s draft class, but s of right now I can say Winston is still the right quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. The fans love him, the team seems to love him too. Give Winston a full chance, and we can go from there.

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