Former number one overall pick Jameis Winston is currently slated to hit free agency in lieu of an offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Where could the former Alabama quarterback end up this offseason?
A lot of this really depends on whether the Bucs are able to land a quarterback of the calibre of Phillip Rivers this spring. You have to imagine that a major reason as to why general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians haven’t tendered a contract extension thus far is because they are waiting to see if they can land an immediate starter to step in and take over from Winston. If they are able to convince Rivers to not just move his family to Florida, but to also play in the same state, a divorce from ‘Famous Jameis’ would be inevitable.
If, though, Tampa is unable to land the big fish, it’s more likely that Winston returns on a shorter deal with added competition, either in the form of a free agent or draft pick.
Any other prospective team, aside from the Bucs, is unlikely to be signing Winston with the expectation of placing him at the top of the depth chart without any competition. Given his propensity for interceptions (leading the league last year) and setting an NFL record in interceptions returned for a touchdown, a franchise would likely also want to pair Winston with a run first offence and a stout offensive line. That way the former Crimson Tide signal caller wont feel the need to put the entire offence on his shoulders, leading to risky pass plays.
Las Vegas Raiders
When you think of which organisations in the NFL meet the key criteria outlined above, the Raiders stand out like a sore thumb. Head coach Jon Gruden doesn’t seem entirely sold on Derek Carr and rumours continue to swirl as to whether Vegas moves on from him. It’s entirely feasible that even if Carr isn’t traded away, Winston is brought in as a 1b option at quarterback to push the incumbent signal caller or provide a jolt if Gruden feels Carr doesn’t give him what he needs on offence.
With Josh Jacobs in the backfield, and that excellent offensive line, Winston would have more help on offence than he has had during his time in the Sunshine State, with the exception of the game changing Tampa receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.
This feels a little out there, but there’s [some] logic here.
Ben Roethlisberger isn’t getting any younger, though Winston fits the gunslinger mode Big Ben has provided the Steelers with for many years. Given his improvisational style of play, it makes sense for Pittsburgh to add an effective spot starter behind its franchise QB. Mason Rudolph and Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges didn’t do enough to convince that they can take on that role this season, so Winston could be convinced to move to the Steel City as the heir apparent.
At only 26, this would give Winston the opportunity to take a Teddy Bridgewater style step back from being a starter, refine his game in anticipation of Roethlisberger’s retirement, or with the opportunity to rebuild his reputation and move on again in a year or two.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A return to Tampa feels the likeliest result for Winston. There are just too many concerns and questions about his ball security for other QB needy franchises to take a chance on him.
For instance, does Winston give you a better chance to win than Jacoby Brissett if you’re the Indianapolis Colts? Why would you move on from Phillip Rivers to sign another interception prone quarterback if you were Tom Telesco of the Los Angeles Chargers? The other factor to consider here is that Winston was seen as an ideal fit in Arians’ vertical passing game and many expected the noted quarterback whisperer to cut down on Winston’s interceptions. That evidently didn’t happen last year and could scare other teams off.
On the other hand, there are few available players who could prove a considerable upgrade for the Bucs under center. Licht and Arians are likely to face heavy competition for Rivers’ signature and at 14 overall, the top QB prospects are likely to be out of the organisation’s reach (barring a surprising and expensive trade up). The only other route might be a trade down to the later picks of the first if the team falls in love with one of the ‘second tier’ options such as Jacob Eason, or a trade up in the second round to select a rookie to compete with Winston. In that situation, the return of their starting quarterback would be a necessity for Tampa.
Arians may feel that with another year in his system and under his tutelage, Winston can become the player the Bucs envisaged when they drafted him in 2015. Especially if they are able to add pieces around Winston to take the weight of responsibility off him.