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Browns, Jameis Winston Agree to 1-Year, $8.7 Million Contract

New Cleveland Browns quarterback Jameis Winston before 2023 regular season game against the New York Giants
© Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns entered the NFL’s free agent period with very little flexibility due to a lack of salary cap space, with the most significant external free agency move coming with the signing of quarterback Jameis Winston.

Jordan Schultz reported that the two sides agreed to a one-year year deal that would pay Winston a total of $8.7 million.

Jameis Winston Leaves NFC South

Winston will leave the NFC South for the first time in his nine-year career, where he began as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being drafted with the first overall pick in 2015.

After spending five seasons in Tampa Bay, Winston signed with the New Orleans Saints as a backup to Drew Bress, who played just one season before announcing his retirement. 

The former No. 1 pick got off to a hot start as the starter in the following season, throwing for 1,170 yards and 14 touchdowns while leading the Saints to a 5-2 record. However, Winston missed the remaining 10 games of the season with a knee injury and spent the last two seasons serving as the team’s backup quarterback.

Winston played in seven games during the 2023 season as a backup to Derek Carr, throwing for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns to go along with 3 interceptions. However, he did not start in any of the games and attempted just 47 total passes, finishing with a completion rate of 53.2 percent.

Heading into the 2024 season, Winston is expected to retain his role as a backup for Deshaun Watson. Watson struggled during the 2023 season, playing in just six games before missing the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. He finished the year with 1,115 passing yards and 7 touchdowns, while also throwing 4 interceptions and completing 61.4 percent of his passes.

What Does the Move Mean for Cleveland?

The Browns have made it clear with multiple moves made to begin the offseason that they are committed to competing in the upcoming 2024 season.

Cleveland has already traded fifth- and sixth-round draft picks to the Denver Broncos in exchange for receiver Jerry Jeudy, who will presumably take up the role as the No. 2 receiver next to Amari Cooper.

The team has also made a significant internal free agency move with the extension of defensive end Za'Darius Smith, who will return to Cleveland on a two-year contract worth $23.5 million. Smith will now remain with a Cleveland defense that was one of the most effective in the NFL, giving up just 270.2 yards per game to opposing teams.

Overall Grade: B

Due to various injuries and off-the-field issues, Watson has played in just 12 games since coming to the Browns in 2022. Signing Winston to a one-year deal will help the team in case Watson is forced to miss games again during the 2024 season. 

Quarterback Joe Flacco, who took over for an injured Watson to end the season, threw for 1,923 yards and 14 touchdowns throughout five regular season games and one playoff game.

Winston has a very similar playstyle to Flacco, as both players are more than willing to take deep shots and test a defense's ability to defend against big-time plays. Should Winston have to come in and play significant snaps for the Browns, he has the potential to make an immediate impact on a team hoping to be competitive late into the season.

While Winston surely would have preferred a consistent starting role, he is joining a Browns team that has had little reliability at the quarterback position over the last two seasons with six different quarterbacks starting at least one game.


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