The only reason Jameis Winston won’t be on the New Orleans Saints’ roster this year is if another team loses its starting quarterback and steps up to make an offer New Orleans can’t refuse, and we’re inching closer to that scenario with news that the Las Vegas Raiders will be without Jimmy Garoppolo for much of their offseason after he underwent foot surgery back in March.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio broke the story on a surprise addendum to Garoppolo’s contract with Las Vegas which waives the risk of additional injury and risks, up to and including “permanent disability,” and which gives the Raiders the ability to cut Garoppolo without any salary cap ramifications.
Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels acknowledged that Garoppolo may not be ready to practice with the team until training camp in late July, and they don’t exactly have a lot of enviable options to work with in the meantime — or the long run, if Garoppolo’s extensive injury history continues into the season.
Outside of Garoppolo, the options at quarterback for Las Vegas include 37-year-old backup Brian Hoyer and second-year pro Chase Garbers, in addition to rookie fourth-round draft pick Aidan O’Connell (from Purdue). The Raiders likely envision Hoyer as more a veteran resource for Garbers and O’Connell to glean on, but to put it bluntly, there’s no scenario where they’d like any of those three quarterbacks to start games this season.
So it’s possible they could come calling after Winston. How determined they would be, meaning how much they’d be willing to swap in a trade, is only something we can speculate about. The Saints would probably like to get a third-round pick back (the same value they gave up to acquire Teddy Bridgewater a few years back), but it would be a surprise to see the Raiders giving up that much. A mid- or late-round selection is more realistic.
What about a player-for-player swap? The Saints could potentially send Winston to Las Vegas in exchange for slot receiver Hunter Renfrow and both sides walk away happily. Conducting that hypothetical trade after June 1 would save the Raiders more than $11.8 million in salary cap space with a dead money hit of just over $1.8 million, though the Saints would be left with a $3.3 million dead money hit for trading Winston while saving just $1.1 million themselves.
But New Orleans is under the cap by more than $13 million after signing most of their draft class (while Las Vegas is sitting under the cap by just about $3.9 million), so this isn’t really about the money. Instead of Winston, the Saints could also offer up a young player who hasn’t been as strong a fit in their system as anticipated like defensive end Payton Turner, linebacker Zack Baun, or cornerback Paulson Adebo, but none of them would entice the Raiders as strongly as a starting quarterback.
If a deal materializes here — and it’s very possible that it never does, seeing as the Raiders could get similar performance by signing someone like Carson Wentz off the street rather than trading assets for Winston — it will be because Las Vegas is desperate for help under center. Maybe they eventually look for it in New Orleans.