- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2022

The top two picks in the 2015 NFL draft will soon be starting quarterbacks in the same division.

After Atlanta traded Matt Ryan to the Colts on Monday afternoon, the Falcons and the New Orleans Saints both solidified their quarterback positions for the 2022 season with underwhelming options.

The Falcons signed former Titans starter and Raiders backup Marcus Mariota to a two-year deal. The Saints, meanwhile, are sticking with Jameis Winston in the form of a two-year contract. In 2015, Winston was the No. 1 overall pick by the Buccaneers, and Mariota was taken second overall by the Titans.

The Falcons announced the two-year deal for Mariota, while Winston’s contract was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. Mariota’s deal does not yet have contract details, but Winston was signed for $28 million across two seasons, including $21 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

Mariota was the Titans’ starting quarterback from 2015-2019, but he dealt with injuries and poor play that caused the team to hand the reins over to Ryan Tannehill. In 61 starts with the Titans, Mariota completed 62.8% of his passes with 77 touchdowns and 45 interceptions. Tennessee was 29-32 with Mariota under center.

After flaming out in Tennessee, Mariota was Derek Carr’s backup in Las Vegas for the past two seasons, playing well in his limited action. The 28-year-old will reunite with Falcons coach Arthur Smith, who was an offensive assistant with the Titans during Mariota’s tenure in Tennessee. 

Winston, meanwhile, was one of the league’s best statistical passers in 2021 with New Orleans before he tore his anterior cruciate ligament. The former No. 1 overall pick by the Buccaneers had taken over for the Saints last year after spending the 2020 season as Drew Brees’ backup. The Saints were 5-2 with Winston under center, but after the former Florida State standout tore his ACL in Week 8, New Orleans won only four of its next 10 games with Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill. 

Winston, 28, threw 14 touchdowns versus only three interceptions with a 102.8 quarterback rating in his limited action last year. In 70 starts with Tampa Bay, the turnover-prone Winston threw 88 interceptions and lost 23 fumbles as the Buccaneers went 28-42 with him under center. In 2019, Winston became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season. He also led the league in passing yards that year with 5,109.

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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