Will the Saints be able to afford Jameis Winston?

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The Saints want to keep quarterback Jameis Winston. Whether they’re able to do that is a different issue.

Making the media rounds on Wednesday for Zebra Technologies, coach Sean Payton praised Winston and made it clear that the Saints want him back.

“[O]ur exposure to Jameis was fantastic,” Payton said on PFT Live. “I know he’s a free agent, but he’s someone I think we’re really excited to work with. Now, that means we’ve got work to do still. I think he feels the same way. I feel pretty good about that.”

The work they need to do relates to finding a way to put a football team on the field. According to OverTheCap.com, the Saints have the worst cap situation entering 2021. If the salary cap ends up in the range of $180 million, the Saints based on current commitments will exceed it by more than $100 million.

Of that amount, more than $22 million will count under the name “Drew Brees.” That’s the reckoning relating to the annual effort to kick the salary-cap can into future years. And the worst year for the Brees reckoning to arrive is the year when the cap shrinks.

That doesn’t mean the Saints won’t be able to work it out with Winston. But it will require some heavy financial lifting elsewhere on the roster, especially since quarterback Taysom Hill will (absent a new deal) have a cap number of $16.159 million in 2021.

That’s more than $38 million devoted to the quarterback position, without Winston under contract. That could compel the Saints to ride with Taysom Hill. Which may not be a horrible thing.

“I thought he had a fantastic season,” Payton said, regarding Hill. “Not just when he was in [the quarterback] role, but he’s one of our better football players, period. He’s explosive. There’s a physicality that he brings when he’s in the lineup, either at quarterback or running back or in a receiving mode.”

Still, Payton clearly has a high opinion of Winston.

“Everything from his leadership, his arm strength, his film in Tampa,” Payton said. “His last season, obviously he had a ton of turnovers, but there are so many things I think he does well. Often times, coaches can be guilty of [saying] ‘here’s what he doesn’t do well,’ and we harp on those things. Our job will be to really highlight and try to do the things that our players do extremely well. It’s amazing how someone can be in your division and you might think you know the player to some degree and obviously you don’t have the same intimate knowledge relative to personally learning. Then when he’s in your building, maybe how different a guy is. He was a fantastic leader for our team. Very supportive and loyal in that room. I think close with the quarterbacks. Coming in just his first year, I think he endeared himself to his teammates. He’s a tremendous worker and he’s got a ton of talent. He made a great impression on us.”

With Brees and Hill making a great impression, literally, on the team’s salary cap, keeping Winston will take some work. Especially if another team with cap space to spare decides to consider signing Jameis Winston.

Will the Saints be able to afford Jameis Winston? originally appeared on Pro Football Talk