Saints’ Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill support each other but focus on getting a job as QB competition looms

METAIRIE, Louisiana – Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill both praised each other on Tuesday, insisting they support each other in their fight to become Drew Brees’ successor with the New Orleans Saints .

Both quarterbacks are determined to make the most of this opportunity.

“A year without playing made me even hungrier to take over (the helm) and lead a team,” said Winston, 27, who supported Brees and Hill last year after spending his first five years in as an entry with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “My next seven years in this league have been a blessing as I have worked my whole life for the opportunity to be a starting quarterback in this league.”

Hill, meanwhile, said he had fully focused this offseason on being a quarterback after the 30-year-old played multiple roles both on offense and on special teams over the past few weeks. last four years.

“I’ve really been able to adapt all of my training and everything to be just a quarterback… just knowing and feeling like I won’t have to face as much as I did last year. So that’s the focus. But the mindset of getting better every day and improving on what you’ve done in the past hasn’t changed, ”said Hill, who said ‘He had focused a lot on his footwork and decision-making process after the experience he gained from his four starts as Brees was injured in 2020.

Hill said Winston was “super united” during his time replacing Brees, and said the two “had a lot of conversations during this process.”

“I think there’s obviously a lot of talk here about this competition and everything – but I support him a lot, and I only felt support from him as well,” said Hill.

Winston, for his part, said he and Hill “have the same mindset” – namely to win and “to be our best selves”.

“That’s what I respect at Taysom because he’s a man who can do so many great things for this team, and he’s done so many great things for this organization since he’s been here,” Winston continued. . “So trying to find ways to serve him and work with him is going to make us both better at leading our teammates and working with them as well.”

The QB competition is not yet fully launched in New Orleans, as the Saints have not hosted traditional training sessions during OTAs or the minicamp this spring.

Coach Sean Payton has said he’s ready to tailor his attack based on either quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses.

“We’re going to build it around this player a bit as a result. It’s something we did when Drew first came here and we would do with either of those two players,” Payton said Tuesday after day one of the Saints’ mandatory minicamp. , which he said included 100% player attendance.

Obviously, an attack centered around Hill would showcase his rushing ability, as he ran for 457 yards last year while starting four games at QB and appearing in most others in option packages. reading. An attack centered around Winston would certainly showcase his downward arm strength. And a big priority for both would be to reduce turnover.

When asked how their unique styles would affect their competition in training camp – whether each QB would perform different games during their rehearsals, etc. – Payton suggested the differences would not be substantial.

“There are some things you could do specifically for one or the other. And yet there is still an overall philosophical approach that these guys will have learned to play on offense,” Payton said. “It’s not a completely different game plan for each of them.”

Both Winston and Hill are expected to become free agents after this season, further raising the stakes for their competition.

Winston is trying to rekindle his reputation as a former No.1 draft pick and Heisman Trophy winner. The Buccaneers let him go in 2020 and moved on to Tom Brady after Winston sadly became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in the same season. , while leading the league with 5,109 passing yards.

Winston signed a one-year contract with the Saints in 2020 worth $ 1.1 million plus incentives to learn under Payton and Brees. He then joined the Saints as a free agent this offseason, signing another one-year contract worth between $ 5.5 million and $ 12.5 million, incentive-based.

Hill began his career as an undrafted free agent with the Green Bay Packers in 2017 before being claimed by the Saints on waivers that year and eventually became a versatile ace QB / TE / WR / RB / special teams. He signed a two-year, $ 21 million contract as a restricted free agent in 2020.

Also on Tuesday, the Saints announced the signing of their entire 2021 rookie class after creating much-needed salary cap space by restructuring the contract of cornerback Marshon Lattimore, as first reported by NFL Network.

Lattimore is entering the final year of his rookie contract and declined to comment on Tuesday on the status of possible long-term extension talks. But a source confirmed that Lattimore had agreed to convert most of his planned salary of $ 10.2 million into bonuses this year and add self-canceling years at the end of his contract – which should give the Saints a few million dollars of respite.

The Saints started the week with less than a million dollars in ceiling space. But now they can afford to add a veteran free agent or two, on top of the rookie class.

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