Jameis Winston considered the best free agent quarterback

Jameis Winston #2 of the New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Jameis Winston #2 of the New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

As Sean Payton prepares to take his hiatus, the New Orleans Saints’ future glimmers with faint hope. Much of that hope lies in re-signing quarterback Jameis Winston.

No head coach, no problem? As devastating as it is to see Payton walk away from the Saints, the team should keep a close eye on what they can control, such as the free agent statuses of a number of key rostered players.

Along with Marcus Williams and Terron Armstead, Jameis Winston will become one of the more coveted free agents this offseason given his potential and expected clean bill of health.

Despite recovering from an ACL injury, Winston remains in his prime and serves as a starting-caliber quarterback for most teams. He’d have no chance in the AFC with the likes of Mahomes, Allen, Herbert, and Burrow, but in the NFC he could turn a team like the Saints into a playoff contender.

Pro Football Focus recently released their 2022 NFL free agency rankings, and Winston placed No. 1 overall in his position group. Teddy Bridgewater and Marcus Mariota rank second and third respectively.

PFF wrote:

"Winston may never become the gunslinger envisioned when he was selected No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015, but his time in New Orleans did illustrate that he can patiently manage an offense and take what’s given to him. Winston was also let down a number of times by the poor collection of wide receivers New Orleans was able to bring in with their disastrous salary cap situation, but the big question for teams will be his health."

New Orleans Saints’ Jameis Winston ranks as the top free agent QB option

The salary cap situation has been hashed and re-hashed by every media outlet nearly every year, but it’s always the same story. NOLA has always found a way to restructure contracts and spread cap charges into future years, and 2022 won’t be any different.

The return of Michael Thomas should give Winston with at least one elite receiving option, and many are clamoring for the Saints to draft one or two early round wideouts as well.

Winston’s competition in the free agent market remains meager. But the number of quarterback-needy teams is increasing with several teams’ futures hanging precariously in balance.

Pittsburgh, Denver, Carolina, and Washington may be the most neediest, while Tampa Bay, Green Bay, San Francisco, and Seattle await decisions from their current quarterbacks and/ or front offices.

Perhaps without Sean Payton keeping him in check, Winston may not be as clean in the Saints offensive scheme as he was this past season, and other teams may come calling, teams with better schemes and, more important, plenty of available cap space.

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Winston will most likely have a starting quarterback job next season. The only question is: for which team?