I am going to preface this article by saying yes, I do think the best option for the Buccaneers at the quarterback position is Jameis Winston. Continuity at the position is crucial and that’s no secret. Organizations talk about it often and we see some of the great teams do it consistently.
But the Bucs aren’t great. At least not yet anyway.
From the beginning of the offseason, uncertainty was going to be the only thing that would follow Winston. We’ve seen it in reports, we’ve seen it in speculation. And while I feel Winston is the best option, Tampa Bay’s front office and its staff emphatically feels otherwise when you factor in the money.
Back in January, I tweeted that there was a high-percentage chance Winston would not return based off the information I had gathered. That has not changed. At one point, there was at least two team that would have given Winston north of the $30-million per year his camp was looking for if he hit the open market. But that could have been agent talk to some degree and that seems to have died down. Bucs were never going to give him that and I was always told he wasn’t getting the franchise tag.
Well over a month has past since I tweeted that out and now it seems and feels like it’s practically inevitable that Winston will not get a second contract with the Buccaneers barring some kind of change — a change in his salary demands.
But now there is this.
Peter King of NBC Sports spent time at the combine gathering intel from execs around the league. As he wine and dined with the best of them (assuming he did, but most positive he did because we all do), it sounds like he probed around about Winston. And things don’t sound good for the former first overall pick.
Where will everyone land? I kept asking people here about the fate of Jameis Winston, and I couldn’t find a landing spot for him. I doubt sincerely he’d be a starter on opening day 2020 if he leaves Tampa (which is likely), but where would/could he be a backup?
From potentially being a franchise quarterback to becoming a backup?
The unfortunate fact here is that it’s not out of the realm of possibility. And here is why.
The quarterback field is plenty full this offseason. Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater, and some others could all be playing in different cities come the start of the 2020 regular season. King suggests that when all these pieces start falling in place, Winston could find himself someplace other than Tampa Bay, backing up another quarterback.
That would be a tough pill to swallow for Winston and his camp.
Bruce Arians can also be a potential reason why the Florida State product won’t continue his career with the Bucs. Tampa Bay’s head coach reportedly will not be coaching for much longer. If he is looking to win and win now, then the Buccaneers will almost be guaranteed to go after a big name quarterback in free agency for a chance of winning right now before he hangs it up.
But the biggest factor of them all is Winston himself. People close to his camp have said from the beginning that if he doesn’t get his money in Tampa Bay, he’ll certainly get it elsewhere. Playing this card is (was?) risky, and we may be seeing why that is as each week progresses.
This entire situation wasn’t handled properly from the start. Winston bet on himself when there was perhaps a chance of an extension last offseason as he hired super agent Joel Segal months prior. He set out to prove his worth. But his worth was essentially split in half with a season full of tremendous performances and horrendous performances all at the same time.
As the offseason rolls on and the upcoming free agency period drawing closer, we will know more. However, time is everything and for Jameis Winston, time is quickly running out especially if he doesn’t acknowledge the impending reality he may soon be facing — the reality of sitting second on a depth chart somewhere.