Jameis Winston

Steelers GM Fine With Backup QB Situation

The Steelers did not draft a quarterback and have not signed a veteran this offseason, and GM Kevin Colbert elaborated on why recently.

Not only did the Steelers’ 21st-year GM confirm the team did not make an offer to Jameis Winston, he said the Steelers intend to go forward with the backups they used last season. Pittsburgh has former third-round pick Mason Rudolph and ex-UDFA Devlin Hodges under contract. Former first-round pick Paxton Lynch is as well, though he did not play last season.

We’re comfortable with Mason Rudolph as a backup and Devlin Hodges in the mix. Between the two of them, they were 8-6 last year,” Colbert said during an appearance on the #PFTPM podcast (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk). “You get into a backup quarterback situation, 8-6 is not 14-0 but there’s some comfort in knowing that they can get you through the hopefully nonexistent spell that may occur if your quarterback gets injured.”

The Steelers make sense for a veteran, with Ben Roethlisberger coming off elbow surgery in advance of his age-38 season. His two backups oversaw a last-place offensive DVOA season. The Steelers ranked sixth in offensive DVOA in 2018, when Big Ben started 16 games, but plummeted to last in 2019 after his Week 2 injury. The Steelers’ improved defense (third in DVOA) played a significant part in the team’s eight wins. Rudolph and Hodges tied for last place in Next Gen Stats’ average completed air yards metric, with each at 4.5 per completion.

Cam Newton is now believed to be open to being a backup in the right situation. Though, Newton has dealt with more injury trouble than Roethlisberger has in recent years. Joe Flacco is now shelved until perhaps September. Other veterans available include Blake Bortles, Geno Smith, Trevor Siemian, Mike Glennon and Drew Stanton.

Colbert attributed part of his team’s lack of interest in veterans to its salary cap situation. The Steelers hold $5.7MM in cap space and have yet to sign any of their draft picks. Although Pittsburgh frequently restructures contracts to create cap room, the team is not planning to change up its Roethlisberger-Rudolph-Hodges QB room for the time being.

Lot of times when we get into salary cap management and you have significant dollars in your starter, it’s hard to put a lot of dollars in your backup,” Colbert said. “We’re very comfortable knowing if need be Mason and Devlin and/or Devlin and Mason and even Paxton Lynch, who’s got No. 1 talent. We’ll see what we got, but we’re comfortable with that right now.”

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NFC South Notes: Saints, Bucs, Brady

Despite the three Pro Bowl selections on his resume, Larry Warford‘s standing with the Saints is in flux. The Saints have been pondering his status throughout the offseason, according to Larry Holder of The Athletic.

Warford has started in every game he’s played throughout his career, including these last three Pro Bowl seasons with the Saints. Still, Sean Payton followed through on his promise to prioritize the interior line by drafting center Cesar Ruiz in the first round. He’s also indicated that Ruiz could be a first-stringer and that Warford will have to compete for his starting gig.

Warford is still on the right side of 30 (he turns 29 in June), but the Saints aren’t sold on him. It’s a situation to monitor as he enters the final year of the four-year, $34MM deal he inked as a free agent in 2017. If released, Warford would count for $5.125MM in dead money versus $7.75MM in cap savings.

The Saints are giving real thought to shedding that deal, especially with a combined $28MM committed to Terron Armstead and Andrus Peat in 2020. They also have an extension on the horizon for standout tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who just recently had his 2021 option exercised.

More from the NFC South:

  • When Tom Brady visited Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, he accidentally walked into the wrong house. He also triggered some questions regarding league rules, since the visit occurred during the league’s “dark period” prior to virtual offseason activities. However, the league looked into it and determined that there were no rule violations, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • The NFL has also determined that the Saints‘ signing of Jameis Winston will not count against their compensatory formula (Twitter link via Nick Underhill of New Orleans Football). It’s not clear whether Winston’s signing was actually borderline in this regard – his deal was reportedly signed after the deadline for the compensatory pick formula, which should have made this an automatic. In any case, Winston is now set to watch and learn from Drew Brees on his one-year contract.
  • Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are hoping to finally figure out their kicking situation. They’re hopeful that Matt Gay will improve this year, GM Jason Licht says, but the Bucs are also “definitely planning on adding competition,” (via the Tampa Bay Times). Gay made only 27 of 35 field goals last year, but he did nail five of his tries from 50 yards out.

Jameis Winston Gets $1.1MM Base Salary In Saints Deal

Jameis Winston won’t earn much as he backs up Drew Brees and Taysom Hill in New Orleans. His one-year deal with the Saints carries a base value of just $1.1MM, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. That sum includes his signing bonus, which is just $148K.

[RELATED: Saints Sign Jameis Winston]

There will be opportunities for Winston to earn more. The deal also includes $3.4MM in total available incentives – $1.76MM tied to playtime, $1.8MM playoff playtime, and $40K if he makes the Pro Bowl (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero). Even if he stays on the roster and hits every bonus, Winston is still only looking at $4.7MM in earnings. Of course, Winston won’t get the opportunity to earn those bonuses unless Brees and/or Hill miss time.

Winston reportedly chose the Saints over larger offers because he felt it was his best opportunity to learn and grow as a player. Despite his talent, the former No. 1 overall pick could probably use the seasoning. The Bucs saw the best and worst of what Winston has to offer last year. Winston led the league with 5,109 passing yards, but also led the NFL with 30 interceptions. Those errors, of course, erased his 33 touchdown throws.

For what it’s worth, Winston’s old boss Jason Licht believes that he’ll turn things around eventually.

“Jameis was still part of our plan if things went a different route,” said the GM, who now has Tom Brady under center. “We’ve got a lot of respect for him. I thought he did a lot of great things, and anybody in our office or building would say the same thing. He did some spectacular things for us. I would never say that, personally — and I think I speak on behalf of the organization — that he’s a bust. I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him.”

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Saints Extend Taysom Hill

The Saints have agreed to a two-year contract with quarterback Taysom Hill, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, the deal is worth $21MM and includes $16MM in guarantees (Twitter link). It replaces the one-year RFA tender worth $4.6MM that the Saints had placed on Hill earlier this offseason.

The move comes immediately after the Saints agreed to sign free agent signal-caller Jameis Winston. Prior to the Hill extension, both players would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency at the end of the 2020 campaign, meaning that New Orleans could take the entire season to evaluate them, to decide which one was best-suited to serve as Drew Brees‘ successor, and to move on from the loser of the battle at season’s end.

Now, however, that’s not necessarily the case. If Hill should prove himself worthy of the QB1 title in 2021, then the Saints will have him under contract at a very modest rate for starting quarterbacks and can bid Winston farewell. But if Winston should win out and if New Orleans should retain him, then the team will owe a ton of money to its QB2/gadget player, even by its standards of commitment to backup signal-callers. The whole affair could become even more complicated if Brees wants to return, and it suggests that the team really is committed to Hill — as it has stated for some time — and views Winston as a highly-experienced insurance policy in 2020 but not as a potential future option.

Per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Saints won’t officially sign Winston until after 3pm ET tomorrow in order to avoid having him against their 2021 compensatory pick formula (Twitter link).

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Saints To Sign QB Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston is staying in the NFC South. Hours after the 2020 NFL Draft came to an end, the Saints agreed to sign the former Bucs passer, per Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, it will be a one-year deal for Winston, who had more lucrative offers elsewhere but who saw a better opportunity in New Orleans (Twitter link).

Indeed, Winston will now have the chance to further develop his game under one of the best to ever play, Drew Brees, who may be hanging up the cleats after the 2020 campaign. The Saints have long indicated that they expect Taysom Hill to take over when Brees does decide to retire, and they tendered Hill, a restricted free agent, at the first-round level this offseason.

On the other hand, Hill will be 30 in August and has thrown all of 13 passes in his professional career, so New Orleans’ commitment to him has drawn some public skepticism. But Hill is undeniably a valuable gadget player, and having Winston on board will allow the club to continue deploying Hill in various roles without worrying too much about an injury.

Robinson’s sources indicated that Winston will not be guaranteed the backup job behind Brees. After all, head coach Sean Payton said just last month that Hill had earned that opportunity, but he also said the Saints would add another QB to be active on game days so that Hill could continue contributing as a passer and receiver.

So it seems now that Winston and Hill may be battling not just to be the Saints’ QB2 in 2020, but to be the team’s quarterback of the future in 2021 and beyond. That will create an interesting dynamic in the locker room, as Hill said earlier this year that he is open to leaving New Orleans if the club does not view him as the long-term answer under center.

From the Saints’ perspective, adding Winston on a one-year pact puts both him and Hill on track to be unrestricted free agents in 2021. They will have the entire 2020 season to evaluate the viability of both players as Brees’ successor, and they can re-sign or tag the winner of the year-long battle, or they can go in a completely different direction.

Just yesterday, the club traded back into the seventh round of the draft to select Mississippi State quarterback Tommy Stevens, but Stevens clearly profiles as a taxi squad candidate at this point.

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Latest On Free Agent Jameis Winston

Free agent quarterback Jameis Winston is still engaged with NFL teams as he looks for his next home, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). However, the former Bucs passer isn’t in any rush as he looks for the most logical fit and the best possible deal.

[RELATED: Bucs’ O.J. Howard On Trade Block?]

Teams aren’t necessarily rushing to sign Winston either, for a few reasons. With the NFL Draft just around the corner, most clubs will probably want to see how they fare at the position before getting serious with the former No. 1 overall pick. And, of course, there’s also Winston’s lack of consistency over the years, including a wild 2019. Last year, Winston set career-highs in passing yards (5,109) and touchdowns (33), but he also set a new watermark with 30 interceptions (which led the league).

Despite it all, Bucs GM Jason Licht believes that Winston can turn things around.

“Jameis was still part of our plan if things went a different route,” said the GM, weeks after signing Tom Brady. “We’ve got a lot of respect for him. I thought he did a lot of great things, and anybody in our office or building would say the same thing. He did some spectacular things for us. I would never say that, personally — and I think I speak on behalf of the organization — that he’s a bust. I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him.”

Right now, it seems unlikely that Winston will be handed a starting job for the 2020 season, but you never know how things might shake out. The Patriots are among the teams searching for a QB this offseason and teams with aging passers like the Steelers could give some thought to Winston as a QB2.

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NFC Notes: Scherff, Cook, Winston, Giants

As of right now, Brandon Scherff is set to play next season under the franchise tag. However, the three-time Pro Bowler is confident he’ll sign an extension with the Redskins.

“It’s gone well,” Scherff said of the negotiations (via Kyle Stackpole of Redskins.com). “Just pretty much sat down and talked to my agent — that’s what he’s there for — and I want to sign a long-term deal with them, too. I love it there, and I’ve always said I wanted to be a Redskin for the rest of my career. So, hopefully we can work towards that.”

After becoming the first guard to receive the franchise tag since 2011, Scherff signed his franchise tender relatively quickly. He’s set to make $14.8MM in 2020 under the tag.

Since being selected with the fifth-overall pick in the 2015 draft, Scherff has started all 65 of his regular season appearances. However, he’s been limited to only 19 games over the past two years thanks to a pair of IR trips.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Running back Dalvin Cook and the Vikings are also in the midst of extension talks, and the 24-year-old has made it clear that he wants to stick in Minnesota. “I definitely love Minnesota,” Cook told Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com. “I love everything the state has to bring. Being a kid, I was drafted (in 2017) from Miami (his hometown), so I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I actually am happy where I’m at, and I would like to be in Minnesota long term.”  After compiling 1,135 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last season, Cook is set to make a base salary of $1.33MM next season.
  • Jameis Winston isn’t a bust, says the GM who drafted him. While the Buccaneers were eager to replace the former first-overall pick with a soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback, Jason Licht is still optimistic about Winston’s future in the NFL. “We have a lot of respect for Jameis,” the executive told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “Jameis was still part of our plan if things went a different route. We’ve got a lot of respect for him. I thought he did a lot of great things, and anybody in our office or building would say the same thing. He did some spectacular things for us. I would never say that, personally — and I think I speak on behalf of the organization — that he’s a bust. I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him.” Last season, Winston led the league in passing yards (5,109) and interceptions (30).
  • The Giants “love” Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs, reports Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. While the front office has been infatuated with him since well before the combine, there are some who believe the Giants still won’t take him with the fourth-overall pick. In fact, some sources told Vacchiano that they believe the Giants will opt for another lineman in Alabama’s Jedrick Wills or Louisville’s Mekhi Becton.

Bucs Notes: Winston, Jefferson, Crowell

Throughout his first season as the Buccaneers’ head coach, Bruce Arians was generally non-committal towards former starting QB Jameis Winston. In one memorable sound-bite towards the end of the 2019 campaign, Arians was asked if Tampa could win with a different signal-caller, and he replied, “With another quarterback? Oh yeah. If we can win with this one (Winston), we can definitely win with another one, too.”

Despite that, Arians recently told Rich Eisen of the NFL Network that he is trying to sell other clubs on Winston (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk). “I’ve called a couple teams,” Arians told Eisen. “You’re going to get one of the hardest workers you’ve ever had and a great young man.” 

However, none of the teams that Arians spoke with indicated they were interested in Winston as a starter. And indeed, teams that entered the offseason with QB needs have either filled those needs, plan to stay the course with their current group of passers, or are expected to use a high draft pick on a quarterback. So at this point, Winston will just need to get on a roster and hope that an opportunity opens up.

Now for more on the suddenly interesting Bucs:

  • We recently heard that the Buccaneers’ top QB choices were Tom Brady, then Teddy Bridgewater, then Winston, and Arians confirmed as much in the above-referenced interview with Eisen. “[A Winston re-up] didn’t work out for us only because [Brady] was available and we had [Bridgewater] if that wouldn’t have worked out,” Arians said. “We were going full steam ahead back with Jameis.”
  • After entering the offseason with a ton of cap space, the Bucs have only about $14MM left to spend, as Greg Auman of The Athletic observes, and some of that will be needed to sign the club’s draft picks. Auman takes a look at a few veteran FAs still available that could fit the Bucs’ remaining needs. One such player is safety Tony Jefferson, who played for Arians for four years in Arizona and who would represent a quality veteran presence in Tampa’s young defensive backfield.
  • The Bucs could wait until the draft to fill their need for a pass-catching RB, but if they are unable to do so or unwilling to wait, they could look at Isaiah Crowell, per Auman. Crowell does not have a past connection to Arians but did play for DC Todd Bowles when Bowles was the Jets’ head coach in 2018.
  • DB Ryan Smith re-signed with the Buccaneers several days ago, and Terez A. Paylor of Yahoo Sports says Smith’s one-year deal has a max value of $2.25MM (Twitter link).
  • Even though Brady may want him, the Buccaneers have no intention of signing Antonio Brown.

Brady Fallout: Bucs, Belichick, Colts, Hoyer

The Buccaneers‘ signing of the most accomplished free agent in NFL history triggered a ripple effect in several cities. That started in Charlotte. Although neither Bruce Arians nor Jason Licht spoke to Tom Brady until Wednesday of last week, the Bucs believed they had a “shell of a deal” with Brady by Tuesday, Peter King of NBC Sports reports. This was hours before the future Hall of Fame quarterback announced he would no longer return to the Patriots. The Bucs’ discussions with Brady’s agent, Don Yee, Tuesday prompted them to bow out of the Teddy Bridgewater pursuit, King adds. Bridgewater’s Panthers offer prompted the Bucs to give him an answer, and they chose to stay in the Brady pursuit without a full commitment. The Bucs had been linked to Bridgewater for weeks.

At February’s end, the Bucs’ quarterback hierarchy went Brady-Bridgewater-Jameis Winston, King notes. Tampa Bay had also been linked to Philip Rivers in February, but it became clear the Colts were his top option.

Here is the latest fallout from the Bucs’ Brady signing:

  • Brady’s camp expressed interest in the Colts, but King notes the interest was not mutual. The prospect of a Rivers-Colts partnership surfaced shortly after the Chargers revealed they would not re-sign him, and while the notion of Rivers-over-Brady sounds interesting based on the veterans’ accolades, Stephen Holder of The Athletic tweets the Colts’ preference of going with a one-year quarterback arrangement probably did not align with Brady’s hopes of a multiyear commitment. Rivers signed a one-year, $25MM deal; Brady became a Buccaneer for two years and $50MM fully guaranteed. Brady also expressed interest in the 49ers, and the Titans were a long-rumored suitor. These franchises joined the Colts and Raiders in leaving the Brady race early.
  • Early this offseason, Brady’s camp put out feelers to other teams, and ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham notes many executives around the league viewed the quarterback as being driven by ill will toward Bill Belichick that they could not tell if he wanted out of New England or merely wanted Robert Kraft to step in and broker a new Pats deal. Belichick refused to give Brady the extension he sought last summer, and Wickersham adds that a Brady-Belichick conversation in late 2017 about the quarterback’s future with the Patriots ended with a “blowup.” This meeting appears to have happened just before Wickersham’s “tension in New England”-centered report that indicated Kraft’s intervention helped drive the Jimmy Garoppolo-to-San Francisco deal. The Patriots gave Brady an incentive package in 2018, leading to his extension-in-name-only 2019 contract.
  • As for the Patriots‘ plans, they may actually be planning a Brian HoyerJarrett Stidham quarterback battle. Hoyer could have earned more money elsewhere but wanted to return to New England because he was told he will have a chance to vie for the starting job, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (video link). The Patriots, as of now, do not have Andy Dalton on their radar and are viewed as being high on Stidham, who has attempted four NFL passes.

Redskins Not Expected To Pursue Cam Newton, Jameis Winston

While Dwayne Haskins‘ status is murkier than it would have been had the Redskins retained Bruce Allen, the Ron Rivera regime’s plan does not include giving Cam Newton a chance to reignite his career.

The Redskins have been linked to Tua Tagovailoa at No. 2 overall, but they will not add a high-profile veteran quarterback. Even if the Panthers cut Newton, the Redskins are not expected to be interested, John Keim of ESPN.com notes. The same goes for Jameis Winston, who is now in search of a new team after the Buccaneers landed Tom Brady.

Washington does not want to put Haskins in a position where he would be the clear backup, Keim adds. That would be the case if Newton and Rivera reunited. Each of Newton’s 124 starts came when Rivera was Carolina’s coach.

The Panthers are having trouble finding a trade partner for Newton, which makes sense given the COVID-19 pandemic preventing teams from having their medical personnel examine players with injury concerns. The Panthers are likely to release the former MVP soon. Winston has not been linked to any teams since the Bucs signed Brady.

Haskins finished with by far the worst QBR figure among qualified passers last season. Daniel Snyder, however, pushed for the Ohio State prospect going into the draft. Although Rivera mentioned Alex Smith as a candidate to start in 2020, the odds may still be against the former No. 1 overall pick playing again. Unless the Redskins draft Tagovailoa over Chase Young, Haskins remains the best bet to take the snaps in Week 1.

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