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Saints assistant GM Jeff Ireland says team a great fit for Jameis Winston
11:04 PM ET
  • Mike TriplettESPN Staff Writer

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    • Covered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune
    • Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers
    • Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate

METAIRIE, La. — Jameis Winston and the New Orleans Saints had not finalized their pending deal as of Monday night, but assistant general manager Jeff Ireland made the case for why it’s a good fit for both sides.

“It’s a compliment to Jameis Winston to understand where he’s at in this world and sign a one-year deal here and learn behind Drew [Brees],” Ireland said during an appearance on the “Matt Mosley Show” on ESPN Central Texas radio. “Look, there’s no better teacher. If Drew never said a word to him, he would observe more than he’ll ever learn in football just by learning how Drew does things. He’s an incredible leader. He’s an incredible studier of the game, how he breaks down his opponents.

“And then you throw in [offensive coordinator] Pete Carmichael, [quarterbacks coach] Joe Lombardi and [coach] Sean Payton on the offensive side of the ball and those creative minds, Jameis Winston will learn more football in a year than he has in his lifetime.”

The upside for the Saints is obvious, too, assuming they can get Winston at a discount rate.

The Saints have continued to insist they believe versatile backup Taysom Hill could become the successor to the 41-year-old Brees — as they proved by signing him to a two-year, $21 million contract on Sunday. But the Saints have made it clear throughout this offseason that they wanted to sign a veteran backup quarterback who would be ready to step into a game if needed so that they can continue using Hill as a QB/RB/TE/WR.

Winston, 26, has as much upside as any veteran they could have signed. If signed, they would get to evaluate him as a possible successor to Brees. Or perhaps he’ll land a starting gig elsewhere next year — and the Saints could receive a high-end compensatory draft pick.

“It really probably won’t be too much different than last year,” Ireland said of the setup with Brees, Hill and Teddy Bridgewater, who started five games when Brees was injured. “We feel like [Hill] can start in the league at some point when it’s his turn, and that’s obviously why we invested in him. But we also need a No. 2 to really utilize [Hill’s] skill set and his upside to the full extent of his ability. … We can’t do those things [with Hill] if we don’t have a solid No. 2.”

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