They always say the NFL is a “copycat league”, regardless of who it works out for.
Teams always try to find a way to latch on to the newest innovation, coaching tree, or any type of product that has an impact on how the game is managed and/or played.
In this latest case, the Philadelphia Eagles went against conventional wisdom and signed quarterback Carson Wentz - who still had two years left on his rookie deal - to a 4yr/$128 million extension that included $107 million guaranteed and could be worth up to $144 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Carson Wentz’s deal also can escalate from $128 million to a max value of $144 million, per source. https://t.co/ye8feLiGSy— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 7, 2019
Many wondered why the Eagles would make a move when they still had Wentz on the cheap for two more years, even though the extension doesn’t kick in until 2021. On top of that, there are injury questions surrounding the 26-year-old quarterback that has never started a playoff game. Wentz has finished the last two seasons on injured reserve thanks to a torn ACL and a stress fracture in his back.
While those are valid questions, it’s pretty obvious that the Eagles are willing to tie their immediate - and long-term - future to Wentz after giving him this deal.
It’s a smart move. It’s no secret the quarterback market is reaching all-time highs, with players receiving deals that average $30+ million per season. Giving Wentz his deal now not only limits his potential cap hit after the 2020 season, but it also shows the young player that the Eagles are “all in” on what he can do for the franchise.
I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.
Should the Bucs get ahead of the curve - like the Eagles - and give Jameis Winston a new deal before the 2019 season is over?
For starters, it’d be nice to see a franchise that hasn’t been in “forward-thinking mode” since the beginning of the decade - or longer - finally start to behave in that manner.
But outside of the organization’s involvement, when you get down to the other reasons why the Bucs should or shouldn’t extend Winston, there are arguments to be made on both sides.
Financially speaking, Tampa Bay could save a ton of money by signing Winston to an early deal. The quarterback market is always trending up, as evidenced by a 116% increase in the top 5 salaries at the position from 2019 to 2020.
The market is always going up, but you never really know by how much until that year. None of those numbers include the yearly increase in cap room, either, which would allow teams to sign the next wave of quarterbacks to even bigger deals, potentially driving up the percentage increase of salaries.
There are a lot of unknowns that will eventually determine the market, but it’s sufficient to say that no matter what, it will always be an increasing market. The Bucs could easily get out in front of the next wave of signings and save some money while keeping the franchise’s all-time leader in touchdown passes.
So, you’re looking at a potential market that could demand a salary that’s much higher than what the Bucs could get Winston for now, in the present.
But should Tampa Bay actually pay Winston that amount of money? He’s had his fair share of struggles on the field, but one has to think that with a new coaching staff he will get a shot at making some big strides this season.
The turnovers have been a big issue. Winston threw 9 interceptions in just 12 quarters of play at one point last season, including a season-high four picks at Cincinnati in November.
He resurfaced soon after, however, and finished the season with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions over the last six games of the season.
Even though Wentz had an incredible sophomore campaign in 2017, he and Winston possess nearly identical marks in play when it comes to certain statistics.
According to Football Outsiders, Winston holds an average ranking of 14th in DYAR (DYAR represents a quarterback with more total value) since the 2016 season, while Wentz holds down the 16th spot. Even when Wentz ranked 8th in DYAR in 2017, Winston wasn’t far behind in 11th.
And thanks to our own Jon Marchant, we are able to show how Winston’s ANY/A is just above Wentz’s. This chart includes Winston’s rookie season, as well.
It’s suffice to say that outside of the meaty statistics, their play on the field isn’t that much different. One could even make the argument that the Eagles have a better team around Wentz, starting with an offensive line that has ranked as the 10th-, 12th-, and 19th-best units in pass protection since ‘16.
The Eagles also possessed what some folks call a running game, one that ranked 13th in the league and averaged 4.2 yards per carry from 2016-2018.
The Bucs? Well, their rushing attack ranked 30th, averaging just 3.72 yards per carry.
Wentz also has had the enjoyment of playing under Doug Pederson - who was won a Super Bowl - compared to Winston his is now playing for his third head coach in five years.
And let’s not forget the defensive side of the ball. Philadelphia’s defense is light years ahead of Tampa Bay’s. The Bucs defense has been one of the worst units in the league over the past few years and was a historically bad pace before Mike Smith was canned in 2018.
Neither player has started a postseason game, either, as previously mentioned. I know that’s a bit of a technicality considering Wentz would’ve started for the Eagles in the postseason the last two years, but you can only say you’ve played in a postseason game if you’ve in fact actually played in a postseason game.
If the Bucs decide that this isn’t enough for a long-term deal and want to franchise Winston in 2020 and beyond, they’ll likely still pay him the same amount with the franchise tag - or more - than they would signing him to a long-term deal.
Either way, if they want to keep Winston, then they’re going to have to pony up.
But the biggest component to the deal is the fact that the Bucs would officially show Winston that he is indeed “their guy” after a tumultuous 2018 season that saw him suspended and benched.
It would be a major stance for the Bucs and one that cements Winston’s status as the quarterback of the future in Tampa Bay.
With the financial aspect and the on-field play out of the way, it’s time to address the elephant in the room which is Winston’s off-field incident after his rookie season.
The Uber incident that took place back in 2016 put Winston under a bad light. He initially denied the account ever took place, which made things worse. The end result was a three-game suspension from the league. He’s also under the gun to the point of that if he messes up in that fashion again, it will “result in more substantial discipline, including a potential ban from the NFL”.
That’s a pretty big concern for a team looking to hitch its wagon to a certain player for the future, but Winston has been a beacon of light off the field since that incident, which was almost three years ago.
Wentz has never been in any sort of trouble, but his injury concern is definitely something to consider. And like Winston’s off-field issues, injuries are tough to project and predict, unlike performance on the field.
But you’d also be amiss to only discuss the Uber incident. It’s not all bad when it comes to Winston off the field. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
Winston has been involved in numerous charities - more than most could count - since his arrival in Tampa Bay. He has his own Dream Forever Foundation that helps underprivileged kids and he’s been involved in many, many other charitable events.
He literally just held his 4th Annual Dream Forever Foundation Football Camp on Friday. Check out the video below and tell me that these kids aren’t having a good time:
One mistake doesn’t define a person and Winston has proved that over the last three years.
Any big decision in life comes with risk. Are the Bucs willing to roll the dice and sign Winston early?
Hell, you could argue signing any player to a long-term deal is risky. The average career in the NFL doesn’t last long and the salary cap is an essential component for team’s to master if they want to win on a consistent basis.
Winning on a consistent basis isn’t something the Bucs have done in a long time, either, but it’s hard to argue they have a better shot with anyone other than Winston.
You can’t predict the future, but the future may be now for the Bucs and Winston.