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Winston re-joins Saints for 2021 after Brees retirement

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Saints are bringing back quarterback Jameis Winston on a one-year contract.

The move announced by Saints general manager Mickey Loomis comes on the heels of Drew Brees’ decision over the weekend to retire and provides Winston a chance to compete with Taysom Hill to be New Orleans’ next starter under center.

Winston entered the NFL with high expectations after winning the 2013 Heisman Trophy and being selected first overall by Tampa Bay in the 2015 NFL draft. He started five seasons for the Buccaneers, who allowed Winston to walk in free agency in 2020 after opting instead to sign Tom Brady.

Brady led the Buccaneers to the franchise’s second Super Bowl victory while Winston served as a backup for the NFC South Division champion Saints.

Winston played only sparingly in his first season in New Orleans, even when Brees missed four games with rib and lung injuries.

Hill went 3-1 as a starter in Brees’ absence.

Winston did replace Brees for one half in a victory over San Francisco — a game Brees started before leaving at halftime because of his chest injuries. While Winston did not throw a touchdown pass in that game, he led two scoring drives — one for a touchdown and one for a field goal — in a 27-13 victory.

In all, Winston appeared in four regular season games for New Orleans, completing 7-of-11 passes for 75 yards.

He also took the field for a trick play in an NFC divisional round playoff loss to Tampa Bay, completing a 56-yard touchdown pass to Tre’Quan Smith to gave the Saints a 13-10 lead.

In his career, Winston has appeared in 76 regular season games with 70 starts, completing 61.4% of his passes for 19,812 yards and 121 touchdowns while also throwing 88 interceptions. He also has rushed for 1,040 yards and 10 touchdowns.

But the Bucs struggled to win with Winston, going 28-42 in games he started.

In 2019, Winston led the NFL with 5,109 yards passing and ranked second with 33 touchdown passes, but also obtained the dubious distinction of being the first NFL QB with at least 30 TDs and 30 interceptions in the same season.

In joining the Saints on a one-year, back-up deal in 2019, Winston took ownership of the role his mercurial play had in Tampa Bay’s inconsistent results during his tenure there. He also stated that he saw moving to the Saints as an opportunity to change his career trajectory for the better by learning from the NFL’s all-time leading passer in Brees, and coach Sean Payton, who designs and calls New Orleans’ offense.

“One thing I’m really excited to learn — the most exciting thing — the way this quarterback room functions,” Winston said last April. “What’s coach Payton’s approach to every week? What’s Drew’s approach? What’s Taysom doing in the room that I can add to my game? Just trying to find different things by serving this team and learning from everybody.”

Now he’ll have a second season in New Orleans to build on those lessons — and perhaps re-emerge as an NFL starter.

___

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer

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