Bucs will keep Jameis Winston, but how will they make it happen?

Mike Florio

Throughout the 2019 season, the question of whether the Buccaneers will keep quarterback Jameis Winston beyond the 2019 season has continued to churn and percolate. Recently, it became obvious that the Buccaneers won’t be letting him go.

A whopping 24 interceptions notwithstanding, Winston has 30 touchdown passes, he leads the league in passing yardage, and he became on Sunday the first quarterback in league history to throw for 450 or more yards in back-to-back regular-season games.

Keeping him is now a foregone conclusion; Ian Rapoport of the NFL reports that the Buccaneers will. The question become how will the Bucs do it?

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The options are simple: (1) negotiate a new contract; (2) apply the franchise tag; (3) apply the transition tag; or (4) let Winston hit the open market. Within that quartet of options are further permutations. They can sign him before applying the franchise tag or after applying it, for example.

Absent a new labor deal before the start of the league year in March, the Bucs will have the ability to use one franchise tag and one transition tag, which would give them a way to keep Winston and defensive end Shaq Barrett from walking away unfettered.

The wildcard in this analysis will come from any interest that other teams privately express to Winston’s agent in the coming weeks. Ultimately, what someone else would pay Winston (and whether someone else is ready to do so) will drive the negotiations.

If one or more teams can’t wait to get a chance to pilfer Winston from the Buccaneers, that’s definitely a factor. If no one else wants him, that’s a factor, too.

The structure of the next contract, if there’s a multi-year deal, will become critical to understanding whether it’s a short-term Band-Aid or a true, long-term commitment. While some have suggested a two- or three-year deal, the Bucs should insist on a five- or six-year contract with guarantees that apply only in the first two. That would give them protection against Winston not playing well, and the year-to-year option in Year Three through Year Five-or-Six to keep him or to move on.

However it plays out, Winston seems destined to extend by at least one season his five-season stay with the Bucs, and to replace this year’s $21.9 million salary with something even larger than that.

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