The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have officially named Jameis Winston the starting quarterback, in a move that surprised absolutely no one -- except for the few who are still convinced that Mike Glennon is good. Lovie Smith announced the move at today's press conference, but noted that Winston wasn't ready yet. That's what the rest of training camp is for.
Winston being the starter was a foregone conclusion all along: no one drafts a quarterback with the first overall pick to sit him. Not these days.
With Winston the starter, the Bucs will actually have one of the cheapest starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Winston's earning slightly more than $6 million per year, which ranked 21st in the NFL. The only noteworthy quarterbacks earning less are Andrew Luck, who is likely to sign a new contract soon, Teddy Bridgewater, and Marcus Mariota. Notably all of them are on rookie contracts.
The team will have Winston on that cheap contract for four years, after which they'll pick up a fifth-year option likely worth around $20 million by that time. Contrast that with, say, Russell Wilson, who just signed a four-year, $88 million extension. The Bucs couldn't have afforded that deal even if they wanted to. Or rather, they couldn't have given a quarterback $22 million to play football this year. Over the Cap gives them $19.8 million in cap space, which ranks fifth in the NFL but still isn't enough to handle this kind of contract -- or at least not without pushing cap hits into the future, which would cause other problems down the line.
For now, the Bucs don't really have to confront those issues. They can lean on Jameis Winston's cheap contract for the next four seasons, if everything goes well, and that'll give them plenty of time to prepare their team composition for when they have to start paying him well over $20 million per year. And in the mean time, this gives the Bucs a competitive advantage over every team that is paying their quarterback that kind of money -- and that includes the rest of the NFC South, too.