While the wait for Drew Brees to announce his future intentions continues, the New Orleans Saints must prepare as if the future Hall of Famer will walk away, leaving an opening at the QB position.
Taysom Hill remains under contract, but the Saints are likely to add a more traditional veteran passer as well.
Jameis Winston could be a high-priority option for New Orleans, given his one-year experience with Sean Payton as a backup to Brees.
Payton joined NFL Network's Good Morning Football on Wednesday and spoke glowingly of Winston's talent and his experience in the system.
"We had a great exposure for one year with Jameis Winston," Payton said. "We didn't have a normal offseason, but we had enough time to see what we had with him as a player, as a leader, as an athlete. I really like what we had a chance to see. He was a tremendous leader for this team, and that's hard to do when you come in new in free agency your first year as a backup quarterback. So that'll be an important checkmark for us.
"A lot of times you want to hold your cards closer to the vest, and he is a free agent, but him along with Taysom Hill, who's in the building, we've said it all along, we're going to develop and coach those guys. Jameis is one of those guys that we have a big interest in."
It's a similar refrain from Payton when discussing Winston and the Saints' entire QB room.
The Saints coach told NFL Network's Jim Trotter and Steve Wyche on the Huddle & Flow Podcast in mid-December that Winston is a starting-caliber QB and would have the opportunity to win the starting job "the minute Drew leaves." Payton noted at the time that he believed the Saints' next QB was "in the building."
Winston signed a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Saints last offseason.
It's clear that Payton respects Winston's talent and wouldn't mind bringing back the 27-year-old QB. Cost will obviously play a role for the perennially cap-strapped Saints, but New Orleans could also represent Winston's best chance at redemption.