Jameis Winston

Saints Release WR Michael Thomas

MARCH 13: The Saints will follow through with this reported plan. Thomas is no longer on the team’s roster as of the start of the 2024 league year, NewOrleans.football’s Nick Underhill tweets. Thomas’ dead money hit will drop from $12.4MM to $11.2MM, NewOrleans.football’s Mike Triplett notes. This separation will still be expensive for the Saints, who will take on a $9.2MM hit in 2025. The Saints also cut Thomas with a failed physical designation.

Rather than Maye, the Saints are using their second post-June 1 designation on Jameis Winston. Due to another uniquely structured contract, Winston’s cap charge will drop from $4.6MM to $3.4MM on June 2, Tripplett adds. The Saints will take on $7.3MM in dead cap on the Winston deal in 2025.

MARCH 7: Michael Thomas‘ four-year run of success in the 2010s kept providing chances as his career skidded off track in the 2020s. It appears the injury-prone wide receiver will finally separate from the Saints.

New Orleans is expected to release Thomas when the new league year begins March 13, NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan notes. Although Thomas participated more in games last season than he had since 2019, the former All-Pro’s run of injuries always made it likely he would not be back for the ’24 campaign.

Thomas, who turned 31 last week, missed the Saints’ final seven games due to a knee injury. This ran the former All-Pro’s missed-games count to a whopping 48 since 2020. Various injuries are responsible for this, and the most recent one paused a season in which Thomas had accumulated 39 receptions for 448 yards in 10 games. The yardage total doubles as his most since he notched an NFL-leading 1,725 during the 2019 season, which featured a still-standing NFL record of 149 catches.

That season came on the heels of the Saints giving the former second-round pick a five-year, $96.25MM extension. Thomas had run off back-to-back first-team All-Pro seasons in 2018 and ’19, helping Drew Brees remain one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks into his early 40s. But the ankle, foot and knee trouble that has thrown the Ohio State alum’s career off course in the 2020s will almost definitely lead him out of town.

This being the Saints, a complex contract structure is in place. The parties, after multiple adjustments last year, agreed to give it another try on what amounted to a $10MM payment. Thomas’ latest contract was designed to be extended or shed from the Saints’ payroll, as ESPN.com’s Katherine Terrell notes; the latter course will bring about a $11.2MM in dead money via a post-June 1 designation. It appears the Saints will use both their allotted post-June 1 moves this year, with Marcus Maye also set to be cut on March 13.

Thomas was also arrested on a simple battery charge last year, and Duncan adds the talented wideout gained a reputation as a difficult personality inside the Saints’ facility. While this clearly did not dissuade the Dennis Allen-led team from signing off on another reunion last year, as Thomas said he was only interested in playing for the Saints again, the parties will go their separate ways soon.

Although the Broncos are the current landing spot for ex-Saints, it will be interesting to see if Sean Payton would take a chance here. Thomas rankled the Saints by not going through with an ankle surgery early during the 2021 offseason, leading to a mid-offseason operation that delayed his return in what became Payton’s final year with the team. A setback then led to Thomas missing all of the 2021 season, leaving the Saints with a bottom-tier receiving corps. While the Broncos have some issues to sort out at receiver, Thomas would not seem a lock to reunite with Payton once the Saints officially move on. But adding a former All-Pro at a low rate could appeal to a team regrouping after what will become the most expensive release in NFL history.

Browns, Jameis Winston Finalizing Deal

The Jameis Winston sweepstakes appears to have come to an end. Connected to a number of teams as a backup quarterback addition, the former No. 1 pick is finalizing a deal with the Browns, per Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz. The one-year agreement will have a maximum value of $8.7MM, he adds.

Winston as a Cleveland option came up Monday night, and the former No. 1 overall pick will indeed have another opportunity as a backup. The Browns have made some major changes to their coaching staff this offseason, firing OC Alex Van Pelt and QBs coach T.C. McCartney. Ken Dorsey will step in as Kevin Stefanski‘s top lieutenant, and Joe Flacco will be headed elsewhere if he wants to continue his career.

Not only have the Browns passed on re-signing the reigning Comeback Player of the Year, but the team was not closely linked to a reunion with Deshaun Watson‘s 2022 backup — Jacoby Brissett, who rejoined Van Pelt with the Patriots. The Browns preferred a younger option compared to Flacco, and cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot notes Watson is a Winston backer. That undoubtedly will help influence this agreement.

Brissett was, in fact, on the Browns’ radar, but Cabot adds the team did not want to authorize an $8MM payment like the Pats did. Flacco had resided as the team’s Brissett backup plan, Cabot indicates. But Cleveland will go in another direction. Winston’s agreement will surely settle south of that point, with incentives likely comprising a notable part of the former Buccaneers and Saints passer’s pact.

Best known for his 30-30 season in Tampa, the 30-year-old QB is coming off a four-year tenure in New Orleans. After the Bucs brought in Tom Brady to replace him in 2020, Winston followed Teddy Bridgewater as Drew Brees‘ backup. Cap-strapped in 2021, the Saints turned to the ex-Heisman winner to succeed Brees. While Winston produced decent numbers despite a bottom-tier receiving corps that year, an ACL tear ended his season midway through.

The Saints brought Winston back on a two-year deal in 2022 but ended up renegotiating it ahead of the ’23 season after Andy Dalton usurped the high-variance passer. Winston still stayed on as Derek Carr‘s backup, making multiple cameos as the ex-Raider ran into injury trouble during a season that featured two concussions.

Watson joined Carr in sustaining multiple injuries in 2023, but the high-priced Browns passer could not stay on the field. Watson’s November shoulder surgery prompted Cleveland to sign Flacco, who displayed stunning form in helping a battered offense do enough to sneak into the playoffs. Flacco did not play well in the Browns’ wild-card game, but the 39-year-old passer expressed interest in staying. The Browns were believed to share that interest, but the sides are set to go their separate ways after a memorable stretch.

Browns, Titans, Giants Eyeing QB Jameis Winston

MARCH 12: In addition to the Browns, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson reports the Titans and Giants have shown “preliminary interest” in Winston. Tennessee has Will Levis in place as the quarterback of the present and future, but adding an experienced option capable of starting or providing high-end insurance would be a logical move. Malik Willis holds the QB2 spot for now, but the Levis selection last spring has limited his ability to compete for a starting role in Nashville.

The Giants, meanwhile, saw Tyrod Taylor agree to a deal with the Jets yesterday. Linked to drafting a Daniel Jones successor this April, New York will at least need a veteran backup if Jones is unable to start the 2024 season on time as recovers from a torn ACL. Winston would fit the bill, and likely not at an especially high price tag.

MARCH 11: The Browns are hoping for a healthy season from Deshaun Watson in 2024, but that won’t stop the front office from pursuing a top-end backup. While the team navigates Joe Flacco‘s free agency, the Browns are eyeing another notable quarterback. According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, the Browns are interested in Jameis Winston as a backup QB.

[RELATED: Saints’ Jameis Winston Eyeing Starting Role]

Winston has been in New Orleans since 2020, and despite several changes atop the depth chart, he’s continued to serve as a fill-in at quarterback. As a result, the former first-overall pick was reportedly seeking a starting gig as he weighs free agent offers this time around. The 30-year-old has not played a full season as a starter since 2019, the year of his infamous 33-touchdown, 30-interception campaign with the Buccaneers

Of course, finding a QB1 job would be easier said than done, as few teams would simply hand the reins to Winston. For what it’s worth, the veteran has looked good as a backup in New Orleans. The Saints have gone 6-4 in Winston’s 10 starts with the organization, and the QB has tossed 20 touchdowns vs. 11 interceptions in his 21 games with New Orleans. He didn’t get a chance to start while serving as Derek Carr‘s back in 2023, with Winston completing only 25 of his 47 pass attempts while tossing two TDs and three interceptions.

The Browns lucked out with their backup plan in 2023. Flacco guided the Browns to a 4-1 record in his five starts, with the former Super Bowl winner finding the fountain of youth while tossing 13 touchdowns, his highest total since 2017. The veteran QB is reportedly looking to stick in Cleveland for the 2024 campaign, and the free agent confirmed that sentiment during a recent appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

“I can tell you that, all things equal, Cleveland is definitely the place where I’d feel best about,” Flacco said (via Myles Simmons of ProFootballTalk.com). “Now, then you have to get into the world of, is someone actually going to give me a chance to play? And all the different things that go into that.

“But I can’t help but have a special feeling about Cleveland, just because of the few weeks that I spent there and how great the city was. And, listen, at the end of the day, I don’t necessarily want that to be a huge part [or] all of the decision. But I do think it will factor into the decision — if I end up having a decision to make.”

Saints’ Jameis Winston Eyeing Starting Role

Jameis Winston has been in New Orleans since 2020, and his desire to remain with the team has been made clear this offseason. A new Saints contract would tie him to a backup role, however, something which the veteran quarterback has become familiar with in recent years.

In spite of that, Winston still has his eyes on a No. 1 gig. New Orleans has Derek Carr on the books through 2026, although the team could move on after next season with relative ease. Carr will be in line for the starting role in 2024 at a minimum, so Winston’s intention of re-signing with the Saints will need to be weighed against his desire to lead an offense. He recently spoke about his situation with free agency not far away.

“My goal is to be, and my desire is to be, a Super Bowl-winning starting quarterback in this league,” the former No. 1 pick said in an interview with Kyle Mosley of Saints News Network“Right now, that doesn’t look like a very clear picture with the New Orleans Saints.”

Winston is a pending free agent after he agreed to a one-year pact last offseason in a move which allowed him to stay in New Orleans. That contract has been restructured, leaving him on track to reach the open market while leaving the Saints with dead cap charges regardless of if he is re-signed or allowed to depart. While Winston’s remarks suggest he would interested in exploring outside opportunities, it would be a surprise if he managed to generate a notable market as a No. 1 option this spring.

The 30-year-old has not played a full season as a starter since 2019, the year of his infamous 33-touchdown, 30-interception campaign with the Buccaneers. Winston would join a host of other veteran signal-callers available as bridge options for teams in the QB market this offseason, many of which are likely to add at the position via the draft in April. New Orleans has Carr as well as 2023 fourth-rounder Jake Haener on the QB depth chart, and the latter could ascend to the backup role if Winston were to depart. It will be interesting to see how willing Winston is to test the market if a clearer path to a starting opportunity presents itself outside of New Orleans.

Jameis Winston Eyeing New Saints Deal

The Saints are set to have Derek Carr atop the quarterback depth chart for at least one more campaign, but retaining Jameis Winston as his backup remains an option for this offseason. If the latter has his way, the team will take that route.

Winston is set to reach free agency next month with the expiration of his current contract. He took a pay cut last offseason, working out a revised one-year deal to avoid being designated a post-June 1 release. That contract has since been altered significantly as part of New Orleans’ annual cap gymnastics, leaving Winston’s future in question. He recently confirmed his desire to remain with the team, though.

“I would love to stay in NOLA forever,” the former No. 1 pick said in an interview with WDSU’s Margaret Orr during a Mari Gras parade (video link). “But whatever the Lord has planned for me, I’m going to go and do my best, wherever that is. Hopefully it’s here, because I love this, I love the energy, and I love this city.”

In the wake of his revised contract, Winston publicly stated his intention of competing for another starting role in the future. Given Carr’s continued presence, Winston’s latest comments are notable since the 2024 season would involve another campaign spent as a backup. The former has his $30MM salary guaranteed in full for the coming year, but New Orleans could move on with minimal cap penalties next offseason.

Even in the event that were to take place, Winston’s prospects for assuming QB1 duties would be questionable. The 30-year-old’s last full campaign as a starter took place during the 2019 season, his final one with the Buccaneers. He served as the Saints’ starter in 2021 for seven weeks before a promising year was cut short due to an ACL tear. Since then, Andy Dalton and now Carr have leapfrogged him on the depth chart, while Swiss Army knife Taysom Hill has also seen occasional usage as a quarterback.

Winston would be one of several veteran passers on the open market if he were to see his Saints deal expire. New Orleans has a number of difficult financial decisions to make in the near future, but the backup QB spot would become a notable roster hole if the team moved on from him. Winston’s future with his current team, or a new one, will thus be worth monitoring in the build-up to the new league year.

Saints GM Mickey Loomis Addresses Cap Strategy; Team Restructures Marshon Lattimore, Jameis Winston Contracts

For years, the Saints have been at the forefront of the league with respect to maneuvering themselves into cap compliance. The 2024 offseason figures to be no different in that respect, with restructures expected to be a frequently-used tool.

New Orleans has a veteran-laden roster and has elected on several occasions to avoid a hard financial reset by instead creating immediate cap space at the expense of future years. That has left the team with a number of difficult decisions, but general manager Mickey Loomis has managed to keep the core intact while also being active in spots during free agency. When asked about this offseason, he confirmed a signficant shift in operations will not be coming.

“I don’t know that change is the right word,” Loomis said, via NOLA.com’s Matthew Paras“We just have to be conscious of making up some ground in the next few years, and there are different ways to do that. I’ve said this [to the media] before, sometimes you have to look beyond the numbers and look at how many guys are under contract, what’s the roster, what are your core players… There’s just a lot of different variables.”

Currently projected to be well over the cap for the new league year, the Saints have begun the process of restructuring some of their most lucrative contracts. That includes cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who ESPN’s Field Yates notes had much of his 2024 base salary converted into an option bonus. The move created just over $11MM in cap space for this year. Lattimore’s re-worked pact also has a de-escalator for offseason workout participation, as detailed by Yates’ colleague Katherine Terrell and Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football.

As Underhill further notes, Lattimore’s option bonus does not take effect until one week before the start of the 2024 campaign (subscription required). That could create a window of opportunity for a trade, something which would come as a surprise given the four-time Pro Bowler’s importance to New Orleans’ defense. Lattimore is under contract through 2026; like many Saints, though, his pact includes multiple void years.

The same is true of quarterback Jameis Winston. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports Winston agreed to add void years to his pact which will take effect shortly after the new league year begins in March. He is still on track to reach free agency, but the move will allow for his cap hit to be spread over multiple seasons. As Terrell notes, Winston was due to carry a cap charge of $10.6MM in the event he did not re-sign. The 30-year-old has been with New Orleans since 2020, and he could be retained this spring in a backup capacity.

Designating him a post-June 1 release would also be a viable option, however. The new Winston pact includes massive bonuses in the 2025 and ’28 void years, Terrell details, but a post-June 1 cut would create a modest dead cap charge of $3.87MM in each of the next two years.

Like Lattimore and Winston, several other Saints players will soon have significant adjustments made to their contracts as New Orleans strives to get under the 2024 cap ceiling. All teams must do so before March 13, but as usual the Saints will have one of the steepest challenges to achieve compliance.

NFL Injury Roundup: Saints, Watson, Heinicke, Thibodeaux

The Saints played much of the second half of their loss to the Vikings today without quarterback Derek Carr after the veteran passer took a nasty-looking hit from Danielle Hunter. It was announced that he was out for the remainder of the game with an injury to his throwing shoulder and that he was being evaluated for a concussion, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.

Further reports, provided by Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football, claimed that while the initial belief is that Carr avoided a major shoulder injury, he will undergo more tests in order to determine the severity. Head coach Dennis Allen told the media that Carr was only held out of the game because of a concussion, per ESPN’s Katherine Terrell, and refused to comment any further on the situation.

In Carr’s absence, former starter Jameis Winston performed admirably. He only completed just over half of his pass attempts for 122 yards and threw two interceptions, but he also threw the team’s two touchdowns in order to bring the Saints within spitting distance of the Vikings. Despite Winston’s seemingly superior effectiveness, Allen assured the media that, when Carr is healthy, there is no quarterback competition.

Lastly, veteran cornerback Marshon Lattimore left the game, as well, with what is believed to be an ankle sprain, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. He will undergo an MRI tomorrow in order to determine the severity of his ankle injury.

Here are a few other injury updates from around the NFL:

  • Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was forced to leave the field at times today during the Browns come-from-behind victory over the division-rival Ravens. He suffered an ankle injury late in the first half of the contest and, though he remained in the game for stretches at a time, he was noticeably limping at times. After the game, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reported that Watson was in a walking boot. Watson claimed that while “he doesn’t feel great now…(he’ll) be fine” and should be ready to go next weekend.
  • Yet another quarterback was forced to leave their game today due to injury when the Falcons‘ new starting passer, Taylor Heinicke, was forced to leave early in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. This required Atlanta to return to former starter Desmond Ridder for the remainder of the contest. Ridder was fairly effective, leading the Falcons on a touchdown drive before failing to convert the two-point attempt that would’ve given the team a three-point lead. The team would go on to lose by those two points after Arizona kicked a game-winning field goal. This likely doesn’t change the team’s quarterback situation, if Heinicke is healthy enough to play, but hamstring injuries can be lingering and might open up more opportunities for Ridder.
  • In a blowout loss to Dallas this afternoon, Giants outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux was knocked out of the game with a concussion, per NFL Network’s Jane Slater. Thibodeaux’s absence opened up some playing opportunities for Boogie Basham, who saw an increased role due to injuries last week, as well.

NFL Injury Updates: Carr, Kupp, Beckham

After taking a big shot to his throwing shoulder in a Week 3 loss to the Packers, Saints quarterback Derek Carr is reportedly unlikely to appear when New Orleans plays host to the Buccaneers this Sunday, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. Backup quarterback Jameis Winston is set to start in his place.

Carr wasn’t necessarily struggling in his debut season playing for any team other than the Raiders, but he wasn’t striving either. After winning the first two games of the season, Carr was only averaging 266.5 passing yards per game with one touchdown and two interceptions. Protection had been a bit of an issue as he had been sacked four times in each of his first two starts with the Saints. This past weekend, that questionable protection led to the shoulder injury that’s expected to hold him out of this week’s game.

Winston will now, once again, take the reins of the Saints’ offense. Over four years with the team, Winston has appeared in 15 games: five coming off the bench and 10 as a starter. In his first season as a full-time starter in New Orleans, Winston started the season 5-2 while throwing 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions before a torn ACL would end his 2021 season early. Last year, Winston started three games despite reports of fractures in his back and went 1-2 with four touchdowns and five interceptions before spending the rest of the season as QB2 behind Andy Dalton.

Winston will get his chance to prove he can still be an effective starter in the NFL this weekend while Carr recovers. According to Nick Underhill of neworleans.football, no consideration has taken place in respect to moving hybrid tight end Taysom Hill to quarterback this week.

Here are some other injury updates from around the league:

  • ESPN’s Sarah Barshop provided an update today on the recovery timeline of Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp. She reported that head coach Sean McVay told the media that it is “the hope” that Kupp will be able to come off of injured reserve as soon as he is eligible to in Week 5. Kupp has missed the first three games of the season due to a hamstring injury and will have to miss this weekend, too, due to his stint on IR. McVay was hesitant to make any promises that might pigeonhole his All-Pro wideout, but the update is surely encouraging news for the Rams’ offense.
  • The injury woes will continue a little longer for Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as ESPN’s Dan Graziano tells us that Beckham is likely to miss “another game or two” with the ankle injury that’s dogged him since the offseason. While Baltimore’s offense will have to do without Beckham, Graziano reports that running back Justice Hill has a chance to return this week from the toe injury that held him out of last week’s loss.

Saints QB Jameis Winston Eyeing Future Starting Role

Jameis Winston is in line to continue serving in a backup role with the Saints in 2023, but he does not envision the remainder of his career consisting solely of QB2 duties. The 29-year-old made it clear he intends to pursue a starting job in the future.

“The main thing is the opportunity, and I’m just grateful every chance I get an opportunity to step into a building and play a sport I love.” Winston said, via ESPN’s Katherine Terrell“However, I know that I’m still a starting quarterback in this league… There’s some Hall of Famers that made their big break at 30. So I’m still young, I’m still 29, but right now my role is to serve this team in the role that I’m in.”

The former No. 1 pick’s most recent full campaign as a starter came in 2019, his final season with the Buccaneers. Winston threw for over 5,100 yards and 33 touchdowns that season, though he also tossed 33 interceptions. A fresh start emerged for him in New Orleans, where he ultimately took over as the team’s Drew Brees successor in 2021.

An ACL tear interrupted his campaign, however, and limited him to just seven games that year. His level of play that season (including a 5-2 record and a 14:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio) led to the expectation that he would carry on as the Saints’ starter last season. After only three starts in 2022, though, Winston was replaced by Andy Dalton; the latter remained atop the depth chart even after Winston had healed in full from his latest injury troubles.

That led many to expect the latter would head elsewhere this offseason in search of a new opportunity. Instead, Winston agreed to a new deal which has a maximum value of $8MM (compared to the $12.8MM he was originally due in 2023) to keep him in New Orleans. That puts him in line to serve as a backup to free agent signing Derek Carr, who enters the coming year with high expectations given the four-year, $150MM deal he inked. Winston is unlikely to see any signficant playing time in 2023, but he expects that to change down the road.

“It’s challenging to be a NFL quarterback,” he said. “And when you have an opportunity to be a starting NFL quarterback, you want to make the most of it. I’ve just had some unfortunate injuries over the past three years, so this is where I’m at. But this is not what I visualize being in the near future.”

Jameis Winston To Stay With Saints

Jameis Winston looks to be taking the Saints up on their offer. He is finalizing a reworked contract that will allow him to stay in New Orleans, Josina Anderson of CBS Sports tweets.

Although there is not a realistic path to Winston starting for the Saints, barring a Derek Carr injury, the team gave him a chance to stay. This will undoubtedly involve a pay cut, but rather than hit a crowded market for bridge- and backup-level QBs, Winston is on track to remain a Saint.

Indeed, it’s a one-year deal for Winston worth up to $8MM, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Rapoport seems to hint that there were no starting opportunities available to Winston in free agency, so the QB decided to stick with what’s familiar vs. serving as a backup somewhere else. Winston was set to earn $12.8MM next year, and the Saints could have realized an identical cap savings by making him a post-June 1 cut.

Instead, both side decided to have Winston back for a fourth season in New Orleans. The former first-overall pick had the first opportunity to replace Drew Brees as the Saints starting QB, and he was productive in his seven games, tossing 14 touchdowns vs. three interceptions while guiding the team to a 5-2 record. However, a torn ACL cut that 2021 campaign short, and when he returned in 2022, he was eyeing a revamped depth chart and a new head coach.

Winston only got three starts in 2022 as Andy Dalton ran with the starting gig. In Winston’s three games, he reverted back to his free-throwing ways, with his 4.3 interception rate rivaling his 30-interception campaign with the Buccaneers in 2019.

In 2023, the Saints won’t be nearly as reliant on the QB after they made a sizable investment in Carr. Winston will now be one of the league’s better backup quarterbacks, and his salary seemingly reflects that fact.