Off-season back-and-forth consisted mostly of opinions and arguments over whether or not Jameis Winston would be returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
When the new league year got underway, the team confirmed the growing reports they were targeting Tom Brady, and that Tom Brady was targeting them. The signing of Brady all but sealed the deal with Winston’s future going from No. 1 overall pick, to unrestricted free-agent in just five seasons.
What a five seasons it was though. In just over half a decade, the Heisman Trophy winner threw and completed more passes than any other quarterback in franchise history did for the Bucs. He set the franchise passing yards record by almost 5,000 of them. He has 41 more touchdown passes than any other Bucs gunslinger, and he ranks second - behind Vinny Testaverde - in interceptions.
There are many other accolades Winston has accumulated, but that last one turned out to be the Achilles Heel for the quarterback. The one which helped his time in Tampa, come to an end, on a game-ending pick-six in Raymond James Stadium against the Atlanta Falcons.
A painful way to watch it all end, but fitting, it seems. Like most first-round picks who leave the franchise which drafted them without a second contract, some rejoiced at the thought of starting fresh, while others opined the franchise didn’t do enough or wasn’t patient enough.
Whatever the opinion of outsiders, the franchise made their decision, and have moved on. But not without sending the traditional farewell message to the young player who quickly worked his way into being the face of the franchise after being drafted.
The player, as is also customary, responded in kind. It’s that response which now makes his reported arrival to the New Orleans Saints a bit more interesting than it already would be, considering his new team is a direct divisional rival of his former.
In a tweet, showing the smiling Winston who had just received the cemented confirmation his NFL career would begin with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said among other things,
“...I look forward to seeing y’all again in February.”
The reports are, Winston is heading to the Saints intent on learning behind Drew Brees and from head coach Sean Payton. Payton of course, might be the most hated NFL coach among the Bucs’ fan base.
“Jameis finds a position in New Orleans where he has time to develop and learn. Something that was going to be tough for him to do in Tampa Bay that’s in gear to win quickly,” Jackson said. “New Orleans has earned a reputation as a training ground for downtrodden QBs. Brees comes in off of a near-career ending injury and wins a Super Bowl, now entering his 20th season. Bridgewater gets $10M a year, Taysom Hill goes from UDFA QB to household name. Have to imagine Winston sees that and looks at his opportunity to be next.”
Hate him or love him, Payton and his Brees led Saints have been to the playoffs each of the last three seasons and six times in the past decade. In 2018, the team made it to the NFC Championship game, falling to the Minnesota Vikings in heartbreaking fashion.
In the 2019 playoffs, the team fell again to the Vikings, and again in heartbreaking fashion.
While Winston will be joining a team with similar aspirations compared to those of the team he’s leaving, his role will be significantly different. Which may not be a negative, according to Jackson who said,
“Winston will be the coaching staff’s project as opposed to being an oft-benched struggling starter. That puts him in an environment to develop without having to feel like he has to take risks to prove himself. It’s an ideal situation to be in a place that can help him grow while playing for an organization just as built to win as Tampa Bay is now.”
When a team drafts a quarterback with the first-overall pick, it’s news. When they move on from said player, it’s news. When said player signs with a division rival, it’s news again. And when he promised to see his former fan base as he and his new team advanced to the Super Bowl, in the home stadium of that fan base and former team - it’s a fun shot, taken as humorous.
Until he signs with a Super Bowl contender. Especially a division rival, Super Bowl contender.
Well played, Jameis. Smart move, honestly. Good luck to you, and see you soon.