New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said the team would like to re-sign impending unrestricted free agent Jameis Winston “sooner than later” if Drew Brees retires this offseason.
That would create an expected open competition for the starting quarterback position between Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, and former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, who has one more year on his contract with New Orleans.
Payton made several appearances with media outlets during Super Bowl week and on Wednesday told ESPN that Winston, who signed a one-year deal for $1.1 million with the team last year, is “a young prospect that we like a lot.”
“When you have a player for a season, he’s kind of giving you a chance to see what he’s about, and there’s a little bit of an audition there,” Payton told ESPN’s “Keyshawn, Will & Zubin” show. “But the same audition takes place for us. He’s getting a chance to see, ‘Hey, this is how they do it here. Does this fit me? Does this head coach, this position coach? Is this a place I feel comfortable playing?’”
Hill started four games in place of an injured Brees during the 2020 season and led New Orleans to a 3-1 record in that stretch. Outside of that, Hill has mainly played a utility role for the past four seasons for the Saints, and if Brees retires, he’s expected to have a shot at becoming the heir apparent.
“A lot of times you want to hold your cards closer to the vest (with a) free agent. But him along with Taysom Hill, we’ve said it all along, we’re gonna develop and coach those guys. And Jameis is one of those guys that we have a big interest in,” Payton told “Good Morning Football,” per ESPN.
Payton has said for months that the franchise’s next quarterback is already “in the building,” in reference to both Hill and Winston.
He also told CBS Sports’ “Pick Six NFL Podcast” that he expects Brees, 42, to make an announcement regarding his possible retirement “in the next week or two,” per ESPN.