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Four years ago, the Buccaneers were sufficiently concerned about quarterback Jameis Winston‘s desire to play baseball that they included in his contract a clause that would, in theory, have allowed the team to obtain a court order blocking him from either dabbling in baseball in the offseason or quitting football to play baseball full time. But no amount of boilerplate can eliminate that burning desire to add a second Major League sport to his repertoire.
“It is one of my dreams,” Winston recently told Peter King of NBCSports.com (via JoeBucsFan.com) regarding the desire to play baseball. “It is something I would definitely look forward to.”
It’s a confusing statement, given the extreme difficulty of any modern athlete — especially a quarterback — also playing (or trying to play) professional baseball. It’s also not something that will make Winston more attractive as a looming free agent, especially since the NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed to end the practice of utilizing contract language that could be used to secure an injunction to prevent a football player from walking away from one sport to play a different one.
Winston could be thinking about a Tebow-style career change, if Winston’s fifth NFL season doesn’t secure a clear and lucrative future for him as a second-contract quarterback. The market for veteran quarterbacks has gone haywire at the top, but even a former Super Bowl MVP in Nick Foles still fell $13 million per year behind the current high-water mark. If, after this season, Winston doesn’t get much of an offer (or any offer) to be a starting quarterback in 2020, pursuing baseball gives him a way to create the impression that “I . . . am breaking up . . . with you.”
It’s also possible that Winston is trying to leverage a better deal for himself as a quarterback by musing about playing baseball. But with the Bucs not inclined at this point to sign him, and with no one else unofficially lining up for a crack at him next year, that would be fairly hollow bluster.
Maybe the explanation is a simple one: Winston loves baseball and still thinks about playing it. Whether baseball becomes a viable option for him after 2019 depends largely on how he performs this season. Regardless, he’s still only 25; if he chooses to pursue a baseball career, he’s still got time to do it.