METAIRIE, La. — Saints coach Sean Payton said he expects Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill to compete for New Orleans’ starting quarterback job in the wake of Drew Brees’ retirement.
Payton left open the possibility that the Saints will still consider other options at the position during an interview Tuesday with “The Dan Patrick Show.” But when asked if the Saints are “set” at quarterback, Payton responded, “I think we are. I think we are.”
The Saints re-signed Winston on Monday, agreeing to a one-year deal worth up to $12 million with the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner. Hill is heading into the final season of his two-year, $21 million contract as well.
“Look, there’ll be a few calls we make. But our goal coming into the offseason was to obviously re-sign Jameis,” Payton said. “Taysom [started] four games for us last year. And [we’ll] let those guys go to work, and I’m excited about it. I’m excited about those two. Now, there are a few things that may still be out there. But I see those two competing for this position.”
Payton refused to give a pecking order when asked for the current depth chart.
“Those two are gonna be sitting there,” Payton said. “Obviously I’ve told both of them, ‘Hey, the two of you are gonna compete for this position,’ and they understand it. They’ll come in … we’ve already had a chance to see both of them to some degree.
“I think last year was important to us relative to Jameis. … It gave us a year to evaluate him, and it also gave him a year to evaluate us. I think that was important.”
One wild-card possibility for New Orleans at quarterback is Seattle Seahawks star Russell Wilson, whose agent named the Saints, Chicago Bears, Las Vegas Raiders and Dallas Cowboys last month as the only teams he would consider if Seattle considered trading him.
But so far there has been no indication that such a trade is being considered. The Saints also aren’t in a great position to trade up for a top quarterback in this year’s draft, since they don’t pick until No. 28 overall.
Winston, 27, joined the Saints last summer on a one-year backup deal to try to revive his career under Payton and Brees — and possibly set himself up for this very opportunity.
Winston didn’t get much on-field experience in New Orleans behind Brees and Hill last year. But he did make his best play of the season when he completed a 56-yard touchdown pass on a trick play in the Saints’ playoff loss to his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Winston was 7-of-11 for 75 yards in the regular season with no touchdowns or turnovers.
Payton made it clear after the season that the Saints wanted to re-sign Winston and let him compete with Hill for the starting job following Brees’ retirement. Payton said Winston was “fantastic as a leader.”
Hill, meanwhile, went 3-1 as a starter for the Saints last year while Brees missed time with rib and lung injuries. But Payton explained that he had promised Hill that opportunity because he had earned it during his four years in the system. This year, nobody has been promised the first crack at the job.
Hill, an athletic dual threat who has run for 809 yards over the past three seasons, showed some highs and lows during his starting audition. He threw the ball better than most outsiders expected, completing 71.9% of his passes for 834 yards, four TDs and two interceptions in those four starts. But he struggled at times with his anticipation and his ball security, among other issues.