There was a time not too long ago that Jameis Winston had just completed his first season as the No. 1 overall pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was headed toward a bright future. If you polled Buccaneers fans after Winston's rookie 2015 season, you'd likely get a similar positive reaction from the majority. There were aspects of his game that needed to be cleaned up, but from what he flashed as a rookie, it seemed like good times were finally ahead for a Buccaneers franchise that had fallen short on luck at the quarterback position time and time again. Fast forward to the 2020 offseason and the narrative surrounding Winston among the Tampa fanbase had changed abruptly -- but not nearly as fast as the franchise's decision to move on from their former No. 1 pick and sign future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.
Winston's first-ever pass in the NFL resulted in a pick-six. The final pass of his 2019 season and likely of his Buccaneers career also resulted in a pick-six. This capped offFive years later, he's still the same type of quarterback he was when he entered the league. Although he won't be returning to Tampa, Winston will be signing with a new team this offseason.
With all that in mind, we decided to create a one-stop destination for everything you need to know about Winston's first trip to free agency. Scroll down below to check out the best landing spots for Winston, his projected market value, a scouting report, and the latest news and rumors. We begin with potential destinations.
Top free agent landing spots for Winston
There are several teams that may have had some interest in signing Winston earlier this offseason, but those teams have since moved on and acquired other quarterbacks. The fallout leaves just a few teams in need of Winston's services as a starting quarterback. Ultimately, he may have to decide on accepting a job as a clear-cut No. 2 quarterback or on a roster with a No. 1 quarterback he can hope to beat out in camp, the preseason, or at some point during the regular season. These five teams stand out as the top remaining landing spots for Winston.
- New England Patriots
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Detroit Lions
- New Orleans Saints
- Buffalo Bills
Projected market value for Winston in free agency
According to Spotrac, Winston's market value resides at four years and $107.2 million for an average annual salary of $26.8 million -- basically, Matthew Stafford kind of money and it's not going to happen now that he has been sitting on the free agent market for over a week and nearly every starting quarterback job has been claimed. Look for Winston to sign something in the one-year, $7-10 million range.
Scouting report (pros and cons)
- He's got a huge arm and he's not afraid to use it. He averaged 8.2 yards per attempt (sixth) and 10.5 air yards per attempt last season, per Next Gen Stats. Only Stafford averaged more air yards per attempt (10.7).
- He finds the end zone. He ranks 10th in touchdown passes since he entered the league and his 33 touchdown passes in 2019 were second to only Lamar Jackson's 36.
- He's very athletic and mobile. It helps him create big chunk plays by extending the play behind the line of scrimmage.
- He can create yards and touchdowns with his legs too. He's averaged 208.8 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns per season in his career, so he's not afraid to take off and run. Since he entered the NFL, he ranks 12th in rushing yards and 10th in rushing touchdowns among all quarterbacks. Again, from a physical standpoint, there's not much to dislike about Winston, who has the look of a perfect quarterback for the modern NFL.
- Decision making is his biggest issue. Speaking of that big arm, it often gets him in trouble. He creates a ton of big plays, but he also turns the ball over way too much by forcing it into traffic. He just threw 30 interceptions, seven of which were pick-sixes. Since he entered the league, he leads the NFL in interceptions with 88. The next closest player, Philip Rivers, has thrown 76 in that span. He's the most interception-prone quarterback in the league by a wide margin.
- He's not secure with the football either. Winston fumbled 12 times this past season. His 50 fumbles since 2015 ranks first among quarterbacks -- tied with Kirk Cousins atop the table. In short, nobody turns the ball over more than Winston. It's difficult to win in the NFL with a quarterback who gives the ball away as often as Winston does.
- His accuracy can, at times, be erratic. In 2019, he posted a completion percentage above expectation of negative-0.1, which ranked in the middle of the pack, right in between Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones, per Next Gen Stats. His interceptions aren't always about decision making. Sometimes they're about poorly placed throws.
Free agent timeline (updates, rumors, news)
Winston bids farewell to the Tampa faithful
Mar. 21: After news broke that Brady had signed with the Bucs, Winston reacted gracefully on social media.for the Bucs fans who supported him throughout along the way.
Bucs have a plan; but are keeping Winston in the dark
Feb. 25: At the combine,.
Our Jordan Dajani has the details:
During media availability on Tuesday ahead of the NFL Combine, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians was asked if he would let Winston reach free agency without a franchise tag. He responded that he hasn't made that decision yet, and will once he knows who else is available. Arians also said that they should know a lot more next week.
Shortly after his press conference, Arians joined NFL Network for another interview. He indicated to Andrew Siciliano that the Buccaneers know exactly what they are doing at the quarterback position, but that Winston does not know their plan. Per Ian Rapoport, Arians said that the team is doing their due diligence on "Door No. 2" to make sure they enter 2020 with the quarterback they are 100 percent confident in under center.
Reading between the lines, it certainly sounds like Arians would like to sign a better quarterback than Winston, but understands that he might be forced to run it back with Winston again in 2020.
Bucs could keep Winston on a two-year deal
Feb. 20: ESPN's Jenna Laine reported that, with the second year being a team option.
The Bucs have also entertained the idea of a two-year deal with the first year guaranteed and the second year being a team option for Jameis Winston, per sources. The first year would be roughly the same as the franchise tag $27 million. https://t.co/vZ5U9abWCi— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) February 20, 2020
As also noted above, the Buccaneers could hit Winston with the transition tag, which is cheaper than the franchise tag and would give them a chance to match any offer that Winston garners from another team.
Bruce Arians refuses to commit to Winston
Feb. 13: The Buccaneers coach never minces words, so it shouldn't come as a huge surprise to hear that he recently refused to commit to Winston as his quarterback of the future. Arians knows there are a ton of moving pieces this offseason, so
"No, because you don't know who's available," Arians told ESPN's Jenna Laine. "You're just sitting and waiting to see, is there someone available? And is he a better option?
"That's the problem. You get about three days to decide -- the legal tampering (period). Is somebody else going to get let go? What's the trade values? It's really monotonous right now because you don't really have any answers."
Winston fixes vision problem
Our Jordan Dajani explains:
According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Winston underwent LASIK surgery this month to repair his eyesight. Winston has apparently been nearsighted since college, and head coach Bruce Arians even commented on it during the final press conference of 2019.
"He can't read the scoreboard but he can see the guys in front of him," Arians said. "So he's alright."
We'll have to wait and see if that helps Winston avoid throwing the ball to the other team.