About a year after team legend Drew Brees retired, the New Orleans Saints were in the market for a starting quarterback this offseason.
The hot rumor for a while was that Deshaun Watson, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who is just 26 years of age, was on his way to The Big Easy to team up with Alvin Kamara and crew.
But instead, he pivoted and elected to become a member of the Cleveland Browns, leaving the Saints high and dry.
They responded by deciding to stay with their incumbent signal-caller, Jameis Winston, and they signed him to a two-year deal worth $28 million.
Winston is also relatively young (28), and after being challenged by injuries, inconsistent play and off-the-field drama, New Orleans is hoping that he will find himself.
How likely is it that Winston will become a legitimate franchise quarterback for the Saints?
Winston Has Had His Moments
The Alabama native was the top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft after two banner seasons with Florida State University and a national championship.
In the 2015 season opener, his very first pass was intercepted for a pick-six.
But he showed some glimpses of greatness that year, as he threw for five touchdowns in Week 11 against the Philadelphia Eagles, which tied a league record for rookies.
In 2019, he led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards while also throwing for a robust 33 touchdowns.
However, Winston has always been turnover-prone.
He had 30 interceptions that year, and for his career thus far, he has a 3.3 percent interception rate, which is too high for a franchise QB.
Last season, in seven games for the Saints, he did a better job of protecting the ball with just three interceptions, but he only threw for 1,170 yards.
He did, however, post a 102.8 passer rating during that span, before his season was prematurely ended by a torn ACL.
Contrary to appearances, there are people who seem to sincerely believe in Winston and his potential.
During this QB shuffle, Jameis Winston is the forgotten man.
In his last full year as a starter, he led the league in passing yards and was 2nd in TD’s.
Prior to his injury last year, career-high TD rate and career-low INT rate.
What are we doing NFL?pic.twitter.com/aU2VWDYJxM
— Dave Kluge (@DaveKluge) March 20, 2022
There seem to be some pieces towards a full puzzle, but Winston will need some help if he is to become the best version of himself.
The Saints Need More Pieces To Help Winston Develop
In Kamara, the Saints have one of the NFL’s better running backs and a man who has scored 47 touchdowns in his five seasons in the league while getting named to the Pro Bowl each year.
He is also a capable receiver out of the backfield, as he has notched 3,263 yards and 20 touchdowns in the air throughout his career.
But New Orleans had one of the NFL’s weakest collections of wide receivers this past season, and it finished dead-last in passing yards last season.
Luckily, Michael Thomas, the team’s star wideout, is expected to play in 2022 after missing last year with an ankle injury.
In 2019, his last fully healthy season, he led the league with 1,725 yards while scoring nine touchdowns and earned his third Pro Bowl nod and second straight All-Pro First-Team selection.
I so desperately want to see healthy Michael Thomas again. He had one of the best receiver seasons ever and was the best receiver in football when he was last seen fully healthy in 2019. pic.twitter.com/7f9x6IpKcL
— Pranav Sriraman (@PranavSriraman) January 4, 2022
However, it should be noted that he put up those numbers while playing alongside Brees.
The question is whether a resurgent Thomas will be enough support for Winston to lead New Orleans back to the playoffs, a place it narrowly missed this past season.