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Is Jameis Winston about to become a victim of circumstance?

The soon-to-be sixth-year pro is hitting free agency at an awkward time.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
All Winston can do is smile and take things one day at a time right now.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We all know that there are bouts of good luck and bad luck in the NFL. Some players experience the former more than they do the latter and vice-versa. Unfortunately, the amount of luck a player receives in their career can be a major decider in how long their NFL career lasts.

It’s not fair, but it’s reality.

And unfortunately for Jameis Winston, it looks like he’s getting served an ice-cold plate of unfairness when it comes to his first go-around as a free agent in the NFL.

Speculation in regard to all scenarios have been building over the last few months, but last week’s developments at the NFL Combine have raised even more speculation, although this time around, it’s much more informed. Bruce Arians and Jason Licht continued to entertain the idea of “Who’s behind door No. 2” and Arians even said that he’d pick up the phone if Tom Brady or Philip Rivers called him to discuss playing quarterback in Tampa Bay.

So now the question has to be: Is Jameis Winston about to become a victim of circumstance?

I ask this because it’s an odd time to hit free agency for NFL quarterbacks. Before Drew Brees announced his return to the Saints, there were going to be at least two guaranteed - with a possible third - HOF quarterbacks heading into free agency. Brees may be out of the picture, but Rivers and Brady are certainly still in the equation.

This usually never happens. The last sure-fire HOF quarterback to hit the free agent market was Peyton Manning back in 2012. Teams tend to always lock these guys up in order to avoid competing with other teams for their services.

I mean think about it. If Rivers and Brady weren’t on the market, who would be Winston’s main competition?

Teddy Bridgewater? Andy Dalton (via trade)? Case Keenum? Marcus Mariota? Ryan Tannehill?

None of those guys are clear-cut options over Winston and none of them offer the same long-term potential that Winston offers, either. And obviously, they aren’t on the same level as Brady or Rivers.

Rivers’ (certain) and Brady’s (potential) availability not only a) forces Tampa Bay to look at both quarterbacks as alternatives to Winston, which would obviously delay talks between the two parties and b) leaves the Bucs with the possibility of looking at Winston as the third option in this scenario. And you can’t really blame the Bucs for conducting due diligence when it comes to Brady and Rivers.

How tough is that for a guy who had a good shot at getting a long-term extension before the season started?

And that’s not all folks.

Another matter complicating things is the pending approval of a new CBA. A finalized deal before March 18 would go into effect for the 2020 season and that could really screw things up for teams, especially if a certain team decided to use both the franchise and transition tag for players on their roster. An unknown cap figure is also a part of the equation.

The potential for a new CBA is also reportedly playing heavily into how the Patriots handle the Brady decision.

So, to sum it up, Winston is awaiting a decision from the Bucs, who are likely looking at someone like Brady to replace Winston, but won’t know what to do until outside factors (the CBA/Patriots) are figured out. And all of this has to be done before the window to apply the franchise/transition tags on players closes on March 12.

Last week’s developments have left the local Tampa Bay media and even some national guys thinking that Winston will be allowed to test the market when free agency rolls around. Where things go from there is a different story, but after speaking with Arians, Licht, and folks around the league, there’s a firm belief that will be the case.

Nothing is official and per what I said on my podcast, I still think last week was a small bit of playing coy and prepared statements. But when you talk to these guys in person, you often receive a different sense/feeling of what is being said than what you receive from reading a transcript or watching a video. That can really change your outlook/perception on a topic. Which is fair.

But you could argue this whole situation isn’t fair for Winston, who has been searching for some type of solid ground his entire NFL career.

A few lyrics from the old Billy Joel song, “My Life” pop into my head when I think about this situation:

I never said you had to offer me a second chance,

I never said I was a victim of circumstance,

I still belong,

Don’t get me wrong,

And you can speak your mind,

But not on my time

Cryptic, I know. But isn’t that what the whole NFL off-season is about?