Browns agree to contract with QB Jameis Winston

BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns have agreed to a one-year contract with Jameis Winston to be their backup quarterback behind Deshaun Watson, he confirmed to CBS Sports.

Winston will replace Joe Flacco as the No. 2 quarterback. Flacco signed with Cleveland midway through last season after a season-ending shoulder injury to Watson. The former Super Bowl MVP went on to lead the Browns in four straight wins as they clinched their first playoff berth since 2020. Flacco led the NFL with 323 passing yards per game over his five starts with the Browns. But Cleveland fell in the first round of the postseason in Houston 45-14.

“Yes, I still envision myself as a starter. However, the Lord has also called me to lead by impacting and increasing the men who are around me. Having the opportunity to work with Deshaun and help him be the best he can possibly be, is my main mission,” he told CBS Sports. “Now, if Deshaun has to heal up for whatever reason, and I have to take a few games off of him, I’m going to be ready to do that; but I have to fulfill God’s purpose first before my own heart’s desire. Because ultimately I desire to win some Super Bowls, and this roster that Cleveland got, looks like they can do it.”

Winston has spent the past four seasons as a backup quarterback in New Orleans, including 10 starts. Before that, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft out of Florida State started five seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his final season in Tampa, he threw 33 touchdowns with 30 interceptions.

The Browns also have Dorian Thompson-Robinson on the roster. Thompson-Robinson started three games last season as a rookie.

Also on Tuesday, the Browns agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $3.5 million with running back Nyheim Hines, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Hines, who missed the 2023 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in a personal watercraft accident, was released by the Buffalo Bills last week.

Winston has been with the Saints since the 2020 season, most recently as a backup to Derek Carr. He is technically still under contract with the Saints due to a restructure he agreed to in January for salary cap purposes but will be released as a formality.

Winston finished the offseason scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Winston’s contract was initially set to automatically void this Wednesday, the final day of the 2023 league year.

However, he tweaked his contract Jan. 6, receiving a $100,000 signing bonus in exchange for pushing the void year in his contract back to the last day of the 2025 league year. This gives the Saints the flexibility to release him as a post-June 1 cut and save money against the 2024 salary cap.

Winston’s last full season as a starting quarterback was in 2019 with the Buccaneers. He led the league in attempts (626), yards (5,109) and interceptions (30) that season, finishing with 33 touchdowns as well. The Buccaneers signed Tom Brady the next offseason, and Winston signed with the Saints as a backup to Drew Brees.

Although Winston won the starting role over Taysom Hill after Brees’ retirement, his 2021 season was cut short when he tore the ACL in his left knee seven games into the season.

The Saints re-signed Winston as a starter in 2022 after attempting to acquire Watson in the offseason. Winston played only three games due to back and foot injuries and was sat in Week 4 to rest his injuries, but he never regained his starting role from Andy Dalton.

Winston returned to the Saints at a reduced salary last offseason to back up Carr. He ended the 2023 season with a controversial handoff to Saints running back Jamaal Williams, who scored after Saints coach Dennis Allen told the team to kneel in a blowout win over the Atlanta Falcons.

ESPN’s Katherine Terrell contributed to this report.

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