Quarterback Jameis Winston won’t be a free agent on March 15. He could be one not long thereafter.
Winston signed a two-year contract with New Orleans in 2022. The Saints could release him after the new league year begins, with a post-June 1 designation.
For now, Winston is focused on staying were he is.
“Technically I’m not a free agent just yet, I have one more year under contract,” Winston said Saturday in a visit with NFL Network during the HBCU Legacy Bowl, via USA Today, “My main thing right now is, I’ll stay healthy and be ready to play. That’s the only thing that’s on my mind. I’ve got to be ready to play, because when given the opportunity, I look forward to taking advantage of it.”
Whether he gets the opportunity in New Orleans remains to be seen.
Winston has a non-guaranteed salary of $12.8 million for 2023. That’s a lot to pay to a guy who signed last year to be the starter, but who eventually lost the job to Andy Dalton.
The Saints would avoid $12.8 million in cash by releasing Winston. If they do it with a post-June 1 designation, they’d take a $2.8 million cap charge in 2023, and another $8.4 million in 2024.
If he stays, he’ll count $15.6 million against the cap, with $8.4 million in dead money still hitting the books next year.
The Saints have visited with Derek Carr, and they presumably will be going in a different direction than the Winston-Dalton depth chart. But Winston provides a safety net while they look elsewhere. They could even carry him on the roster for a while after the league year begins, until they have other arrangements with which they’re comfortable for 2023.
Winston received a $14 million signing bonus and a $1.2 million salary last year to remain with the Saints. He has spent three years in New Orleans after finishing his initial five-year contract with the Buccaneers.
Tampa Bay made Winston the first overall pick in the 2015 draft. Although it seems as if he’s been in the NFL for a very long time, he’s still only 29 years old.