Winston, who has one year remaining on the two-year deal he signed in 2022, has until the start of the new league year Wednesday to accept the offer or he will be released, sources said.
The Saints agreed to a four-year contract with former Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr on Monday, which means Winston will no longer be in competition for a starting role. Sources had told ESPN that Carr’s deal could be worth up to $150 million and includes up to $100 million in guarantees.
Winston’s contract currently counts $15.2 million against the 2023 salary cap. The Saints can adjust that cap hit by lowering Winston’s $12.8 million base salary to pay him in line with other backups.
Andy Dalton signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Saints last year to back up Winston but ended up starting 14 games. Dalton, 35, is set to become a free agent.
The Saints can also save money by releasing Winston. They would save $4.4 million against the cap with a standard release and $12.8 million if the 29-year-old is designated a post-June 1 cut, meaning he can become a free agent upon release but the Saints will not get the cap space until June.
Winston, the No. 1 pick, by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in the 2015 draft, has been with the Saints since the 2020 season. Winston signed with New Orleans as one of Drew Brees’ backups that year and competed with Taysom Hill for the starting role after Brees retired before the 2021 season.
After beating out Hill for the job, Winston tore an ACL seven games into the 2021 season and spent the rest of the year rehabbing. Winston signed a new deal with the Saints last March after the team tried and failed to acquire Deshaun Watson in a trade.
Winston was expected to be the Saints’ starter in 2022, but back and foot injuries at the beginning of the season derailed that idea. Saints coach Dennis Allen sat Winston for their Week 4 game against the Minnesota Vikings in London, with the idea to rest his injuries, but Winston never got his job back.
“I lost my job due to injury, and the policy has always been you don’t lose your job due to injury. And that’s what happened,” Winston said in November.
If Winston is released, he will be looking for the third team of his career. He has a 34-46 record as an NFL starter and has completed 61.3% of his passes for 21,840 yards, 139 touchdowns and 96 interceptions.