Free agency notes on Jameis Winston, Trey Hendrickson, Taysom Hill, more

The Saints want to keep Jameis Winston around.

They like him, feel he has a lot of upside, and believe he can again be a starting quarterback. New Orleans has stated all of these things on the record. Behind the scenes, they have already made an initial offer to the quarterback. But judging from what I’ve heard is the starting point, there will probably be a limit on how far the team is willing to go to keep Winston.

Now, let me preface by saying that every negotiation has a starting point, and you don’t start where you want to finish. I also believe that without any leverage, there is no point for the Saints to extend themselves too far, especially given their cap situation, until another team forces their hand. But I heard the first offer was in the single-digit millions with incentives that would allow him to earn more. The negotiation will keep going.

This makes sense. Winston has the talent to make the $1.1 million contract he signed last year look ridiculous and shred apart whatever deal he signs this year. But Cam Newton just signed a deal worth a base of $5 million that can go up to $14 million. He did not play well last year, but he was a starting quarterback. The idea for Winston is that he would come in here to compete for the starting job. If he wins it, the preferable deal will allow him to earn pay in line with his play.

That type of structure would also benefit the Saints since it would allow the team to set his incentives to not likely to be earned, meaning that those thresholds are set higher than his starts, yardage and completions from last year. If Winston earned the incentives, they would count on the 2022 cap.

Does this mean Winston will sign a deal for less than Newton, or the Saints are unwilling to flex? None of those things are true yet. Just means this is where things are starting. We won’t really find out what Winston is worth to the Saints until there is some competition for his services, and it sounds like there might be some interest out there.

Coming or going?

Have started to hear some things about a couple of different free agents.

It sounds like Sheldon Rankins and Trey Hendrickson are going to see what’s out there for them. It seems unlikely that Hendrickson will be back, but you never know. That’s how it looked last year for Andrus Peat, and then he returned after his market was softer than expected. He’s said to have a good amount of interest early on.

New Orleans wants to keep Justin Hardee, but we’ll see how that situation plays out. Keeping him would be smart.

Competition at QB?

Sean Payton recently told Morten Andersen that he wants to bring Winston back to “compete” for the starting job.

What does this mean? Taysom Hill is certainly part of the equation, but perhaps the team would also look to add another quarterback during or after the draft. A lot of teams are going to be replacing their starters with rookies. Perhaps that creates an opportunity for New Orleans to acquire a displaced veteran to add to the mix.

Until the starter is locked in, the Saints have to explore all options.

Cap moves

Once New Orleans actually parts ways with Malcom Brown, the team will be about $3.7 million over the salary cap.

There are still some other moves on the board for them, too. Patrick Robinson could get let go for a savings of $2.6 million, and the team can clear significant space by extending Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams and Terron Armstead.

Signing the rookie class will take about $3-4 million, depending on what happens in free agency.

Losing Janoris Jenkins and Emmanuel Sanders hurts, and some depth issues need to get addressed, but the Saints have very quickly cleaned up their cap issues.

Ignore the Taysom reports

There were some reports about Hill receiving a four-year extension worth $140 million.

Ignore that.

The Saints added some voidable years to the deal to lower his 2021 cap hit. Everything else voids. Those big numbers aren’t real.

So why write them in?

It’s just to make things cleaner if the team decides to undo a void within the next 12 months. There are rules involved with redoing a deal inside of 12 months. To avoid any issues, start with a big number and lower it if you need to later. Teddy Bridgewater had numbers on his voids around $22 million and then signed for around $7 million.

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