The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a big decision to make about Jameis Winston. Any way you slice it, his idiotic behavior will cost him a lot of cash.
It’s very possible that Jameis Winston’s Uber incident just a few months after the conclusion of his rookie season might derail his entire career. The Buccaneers are left with the tough choice of whether or not they’re comfortable moving forward with Winston as their franchise quarterback. Even if they do elect to re-sign him, the team has every right to request a serious discount.
To be clear, Winston has no one to blame but himself. He’s certainly not a victim here. His behavior back in March of 2016 was deplorable. If he was employed in any number of other professions, he could have been terminated on the spot.
Fortunately for Winston, he’s an NFL quarterback. HIs current contract is largely guaranteed. The NFL did choose to levy a three-game suspension against him, but he’s still going to get paid in 2018. However, the Buccaneers do have flexibility for the 2019 season. Per the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, the team can cut Winston before March 13, 2019 and avoid paying him the $20+ million team option they originally committed to exercising, provided he’s not injured.
At this point, it would be a tremendous shock if Tampa Bay elects to pay him that much. Even based on his on-field performance that would represent an overpay. Quite a few NFL scouts have serious concerns about whether or not Winston is productive enough to be a starting quarterback. Judging by all objective measures, he’s solidly in the bottom half of NFL signal-callers.
He’s certainly not worth anything close to $20 million. Still, the team might have paid him that salary in an effort to give him one more year to progress. His latest incident throws that decision squarely up in the air.
The Bucs may simply cut Winston when the year is over. Head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht are on thin ice with the team and if they don’t win this season, there could be a massive regime change. If that happens, expect Winston to be jettisoned with the coaching staff.
If the team, and Winston, do enjoy success this season, it puts Tampa Bay in a really awkward situation. The team might want to retain Winston due to his on-field talent, but his behavior off the field has to be a significant concern for the organization.
As such, the Buccaneers could offer him a contract extension that reflects that risk. The easiest way to do that would be to offer him less money than his production would dictate. Winston isn’t going to be a hot commodity for other teams due to his baggage.
The more likely scenario would be to pay Winston like a franchise quarterback, but include serious protections in the deal relating to years and/or guaranteed money. Tampa Bay would be foolish to commit long-term, guaranteeing money to a player with his sort of track record. Instead, it could retain flexibility by including multiple opt-out clauses for the team over the life of the deal.
No matter what, Winston has cost himself a ton of money. Before this mess, he was looking at a sizable contract from some team enamored with his big arm. Now, he’ll be lucky to receive a contract offer commensurate with an average NFL starting quarterback.
All told, Winston has nobody to blame but himself.