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Browns sign backup QB Jameis Winston, ending the short-lived Joe Flacco era

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston prepares to throw the football.
Gerald Herbert
Jameis Winston has spent the last four seasons with the New Orleans Saints where he was primarily a backup. He'll now back up Deshaun Watson in Cleveland.

The Browns are signing Jameis Winston as next season’s backup to quarterback Deshaun Watson. Winston, the 2015 No. 1 overall draft pick, will sign a one-year deal worth up to $8.7 million.

Winston spent the first five seasons of his career at Tampa Bay, and in his final season there in 2019, he led the league in passing yards as well as in interceptions. The Buccaneers signed Tom Brady the next offseason, and Winston signed with the Saints in 2020, where he was primarily a backup. He went 6-4 in 10 games as a starter.

“Of the kind of available players, he would not have been the one I picked.”
Terry Pluto

Ideastream Public Media’s sports commentator Terry Pluto said the Browns decided to move on from veteran Joe Flacco, who was signed in the middle of last season and led the team to a playoff berth.

The Browns are looking for a veteran backup as Watson recovers from major shoulder surgery. Pluto said he would have preferred Flacco or former Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett. But Brissett has agreed to a one-year, $8 million deal with the Patriots.

“So much rests on Watson,” Pluto said. “Will he be healthy? Can he stay healthy? But I'm at least glad that Jameis Winston is a veteran. He's 30 years old. He has started in the league a number of years he's been around. So I think it's imperative that they have a quarterback like they had last year in Joe Flacco, somebody like that, that they can put in the game and win some games for them.”

And while Winston isn’t Pluto's first pick, he has faith in the front office.

“I do tend to think that Andrew Berry and the front office, they generally know what they're doing. And when they have brought in backup quarterbacks before — whether it was Jacoby Brissett or even before that, a guy named Case Keenum, and then last year, Joe Flacco — all three of those guys, when they played, played pretty well,” Pluto said. “So that respect I kind of give them the benefit of the doubt. But he just would have not — of the kind of available players — he would not have been the one I picked.”

Meanwhile, the Browns’ 2018 No. 1 overall pick, Baker Mayfield, has agreed to a three-year deal in Tampa Bay worth $100 million in total and $50 million guaranteed.

“He reinvented himself after being cut twice and cast off by the Browns, too. So, I respect that,“ Pluto said. “You know, Baker had some really nice moments here. And the truth is, as of now, until Deshaun Watson gets it going or whatever, I would say Baker Mayfield is still the best quarterback they had since 1999. Of course, it's not a real impressive list, but by having, like, two very good seasons, that's really more, I think, than any other Browns quarterbacks had since they returned.“

In some other moves at the start of free agency, the Browns traded fifth and sixth-round picks in the 2024 draft for former Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy. They also signed former Bills running back Nyheim Hines to a one-year deal. And defensive end Za’Darius Smith agreed to a two-year deal to stay with the team.

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