Winston's decision to sign on to be Carr's caddie in 2023 doesn't mean he's resigned to be a backup for the rest of his career. On the contrary, the former No. 1 overall pick said Tuesday he believes he's still an NFL starter.
"The main thing is the opportunity, and I'm just grateful every chance I get an opportunity to step into a building and play a sport I love," Winston said, via Katherine Terrell of ESPN. "However, I know that I'm still a starting quarterback in this league. But, man, I have to be, like this is all a process. There's some Hall of Famers that made their big break at 30. So I'm still young, I'm still 29, but right now my role is to serve this team in the role that I'm in. And I'm all-in to doing that. Because again, I'm grateful for the opportunity to be able to still wear a Saints uniform or to be in the NFL in general."
After five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which included a lot of yards but also a lot of turnovers, including a 30-interception season in 2019, Winston joined the Saints as a backup to Drew Brees in an attempt to rework his image under Sean Payton. After attempting 11 passes in four appearances in 2020, Winston started seven games in 2021 before suffering an injury. In 2022, he again began the season as the starter but lasted just three games before another injury struck.
Last season, even after Winston was cleared, coach Dennis Allen stuck with Andy Dalton as the starter. Then, New Orleans inked Carr to a deal this offseason to be the starter, despite Winston's presence.
"Everyone has different journeys in this league. But it's challenging to be an NFL quarterback. And when you have an opportunity to be a starting NFL quarterback, you want to make the most of it," Winston said. "I've just had some unfortunate injuries over the past three years, so this is where I'm at. But this is not what I visualize being in the near future. But where I'm at right now is focusing on getting healthy, focusing on taking advantage of this opportunity I have to serve Derek, to serve this team and serve this organization the best that I can."
Winston's decision to serve as a clear backup behind a QB who hasn't missed a game due to injury in five seasons instead of moving to a place where he'd have a better shot at a starting gig was somewhat of a surprise. However, the 29-year-old said he elected for familiarity at this stage of his career rather than starting over again.
"It's just very familiar," Winston said. "I trust this organization, I believe in this team that we have a great defense, great offense. And last year we had a lot of opportunities to break open some games, but with the addition of Derek, I think he's gonna bring a lot of good things to this team."
Barring an injury, Winston won't see the field much this season in New Orleans. With the Saints drafting Jake Haener as a developmental backup QB, it could be Winston's final season in the Bayou. Then he'll set out to see if the rest of the NFL believes he has starting value or is a career backup.