The Jameis Winston era in Tampa Bay isn’t winding down just yet. The Buccaneers (7-7) are looking at ways to keep their former No. 1 overall draft pick after his contract expires following the 2019 season, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
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Winston has become the NFL’s ultimate wild card at quarterback. He’s passed for a career-high 30 touchdowns and 4,500+ yards to date this season with more pass attempts than any other quarterback (554). But Winston’s 24 interceptions also pace the league by a wide margin. While Tampa is on a four-game win streak entering Saturday’s matchup against the Houston Texans (9-5), none of those victories came against teams with winning records (Jaguars, Lions, Falcons, Colts).
In fact, the Bucs have defeated just one team currently above .500 this season — a Week 3, 55-40 shootout at the Los Angeles Rams —with Winston throwing for 385 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
The Florida State product’s overall record in Tampa is just 28-40 in nearly five seasons, yet this is Winston’s first with head coach Bruce Arians. With both Atlanta and Carolina regressing in the NFC South, the Bucs have an opportunity to solidify their roster and contend with New Orleans for a divisional title over the next few seasons. The breakout of wide receiver Chris Godwin has certainly helped and locking in Winston now would allow Tampa to focus on providing him with more tools for success.
Sticking with Winston comes with off-the-field risks as well. The Alabama native’s history of indecent acts has been widely documented. Winston was investigated in 2012 for rape during his time at FSU, and while the school cleared him, Winston later settled a civil suit filed by his accuser. He’s also been cited for shoplifting in college and was suspended three games by the NFL for groping an Uber driver in 2017.
Just how the Buccaneers plan to keep Winston remains unclear. According to Rapoport, there are a few options with the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement set to expire following the 2020 season.
Tampa could use either the franchise tag or transition tag on Winston — putting the quarterback’s salary around $26 million for the year — if a new deal isn’t reached.
Perhaps Tampa is unconvinced by the potential replacement options at quarterback or maybe it just wants to give Arians more time to work with the 25-year-old. Whatever the reason, it’s a gamble the Bucs are seemingly prepared to take.
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