Jameis Winston is not viewing his new role with the New Orleans Saints as a concession, but rather a golden opportunity.
The former No. 1 overall pick on Wednesday spoke about signing a one-year contract with the Saints, a team Winston believes to be the perfect fit as he attempts to get a career that once brimmed with potential back on track.
“If you believe in the ability that you have, if you have faith that you will become a starting quarterback again, you take this opportunity in a heartbeat to work with this amazing group of men,” Winston told reporters in a conference call.
Coming off an erratic 2019 season in which he threw 30 interceptions, the most by any quarterback since 1988, Winston found the market ice-cold for starting opportunities as he made his first foray into free agency.
Having been supplanted as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ franchise face by Tom Brady, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner ultimately settled on a one-year, incentive-laden deal with the Saints to back up another future Hall of Famer in Drew Brees.
For a reclamation project, Winston arguably could not have found a better spot than New Orleans, which resurrected the career of another former Pro Bowl quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater just last season.
Bridgewater went 5-0 in five starts filling in for an injured Brees and parlayed that efficient performance into a three-year, $21 million contract with the Carolina Panthers in March.
“When you see what happened last year with the amount of play time that Taysom [Hill] and Teddy got — I’m not saying that I’m going to expect that this year — but those guys were prepared,” Winston said. “And that’s the way I’m going to be. I’m going to be prepared for whatever.”
A chance to learn from two of the NFL’s brightest offensive minds in Brees and coach Sean Payton added to the appeal of joining the Saints, as did an opportunity to play on a team regarded among the top contenders to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
“We have a Hall of Fame quarterback and a future Hall of Fame coach. That’s very intriguing for a young quarterback like myself,” the 26-year-old said. “This is a Super Bowl-contending team and I’m just happy to be a part of that.”
It is still not the outcome Winston was likely expecting a season after throwing for a league-high 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns, second only to eventual MVP Lamar Jackson.
He admitted his departure from Tampa Bay was a humbling experience, but one that could turn out as a blessing in disguise.
“One thing about humility is, everyone needs to be humbled,” he said. “Throughout my entire life, I started from very humble beginnings. So it’s another chapter in my life I’m going to learn from and is going to make me better.”