National Football League
National Football League

Can Jameis Winston revive his career in the wake of Drew Brees' departure?

Published Mar. 18, 2021 10:31 a.m. ET

There will be a new leader when the Saints go marching in.

In the wake of Drew Brees' retirement, the New Orleans Saints re-signed quarterback Jameis Winston to a one-year deal worth up to $12.5 million.

Winston will look to prove his worth and revive his career one year after being removed as the No. 1 signal-caller in Tampa Bay.

The question now: Can he first, win the starting job, and second, lead the Saints to the promised land?

Winston didn't see much of the field in 2020. He went 7-of-11 for 75 yards with no touchdowns or turnovers in the regular season, but a highlight came against his former team, the Bucs, when he tossed a 56-yard touchdown pass on a trick play in the playoffs.

He has plenty of tape from five seasons in Tampa after being selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Before being released, Winston led the league in passing yards (5,109) as well as interceptions (33) in 2019.

Last season, Winston was able to learn from one of the best and a future Hall of Famer in Brees, who tied for the third-fewest interceptions among quarterbacks with at least 10 starts, with six. In addition, Brees recorded the second-highest competition percentage (70.5%) in 2020. 


Brandon Marshall believes that sitting on the sideline, watching Brees, and learning from head coach Sean Payton, was exactly what the doctor ordered for Winston and his career.

"You just sat behind Drew Brees for an entire year ... Sean Payton, you have to take something from there ... I'm telling you right now, Jameis Winston is the guy, and the New Orleans Saints can be a better team and scarier team next year."

In 2021, if Winston is the starter, he will be tossing passes to the Saints' top-tier offensive weapons in running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Michael Thomas. In addition, the QB will be protected by an offensive line that was top-10 in 2020, according to Pro Football Focus, helping the Saints to score the fifth-most points per game (30.1) in the league.

If Winston can clean up his mistakes from 2019 and capitalize on the touchdowns — he posted the second-most that season (33) behind only regular-season MVP Lamar Jackson — the Saints might be in good hands.

However, as Shannon Sharpe noted, Winston might have to compete with the man who replaced him on the Bucs. 

The two clubs play in the same division, going head-to-head twice each season while vying for the NFC South title, and in Tom Brady's first season with Tampa Bay, he captured a Super Bowl title after the franchise missed the postseason for 12 straight years.

"[The Saints] got their work cut out for them. Tom Brady smells blood in the water ... the band is back together ... so he kept that thing together, so he trying to fill out his hands. He's trying to get a ring on every finger."

Tampa Bay made several offseason moves to keep its championship squad intact. The Bucs retained Brady's longtime favorite target, Rob Gronkowski, and receiver Chris Godwin, in addition to keeping key defensive pieces in linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Lavonte David.

The road ahead won't be easy for the Saints, as the Bucs have the best odds to win the division (-143) and conference (+425) and the second-best odds to win it all (+850).

And of course, before Winston even thinks about facing his former team, he will have to compete for the starting job in New Orleans, as the Saints also retained gadget player Taysom Hill.

Let the quarterback competition commence.


Get more from National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more