What's Next for Former FSU QB Jameis Winston?
This time five years ago, Jameis Winston was a few weeks away from being the first overall pick in the NFL draft. The Heisman Trophy winner had lost just one game during his time at Florida State, along with winning a national championship. That seems like a lifetime ago now, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers deciding to move on and replace Winston with.... well you may know him. His name is Tom Brady, ever heard of him?
Tampa Bay deciding to part ways with Winston isn't too much of a surprise: this comes off a season in which he threw 30 interceptions. On paper that number is jarring, even with context. All the passing yards, touchdown records, bad running games and bad defenses during his Bucs career will be overlooked because of the turnovers. Jameis is out, Brady is in. So what now?
A few days ago there looked to be a number of really good situations for Winston to land on his feet in position to be the franchise quarterback. Places like Chicago with a great defense decided to trade for Nick Foles. Maybe somewhere like Los Angeles (Chargers) who decided to move on from long-time quarterback Phillip Rivers looks like they'll stick with Tyrod Taylor and draft for the future. The Indianapolis Colts signed Rivers to a one-year mega deal. The Las Vegas Raiders signed Winston's draft mate, Marcus Mariota, to a deal, and the Carolina Panthers won the Teddy Bridgewater sweepstakes.
So what's left for the former 'Noles quarterback? Let's look at the destination options from the three most likely, and then everyone else.
Winston in the Steel City? On paper it fits like a glove given their quarterback situation from last year. They were also a team that just missed the playoffs even after multiple injuries and losses like Antonio Brown, but there's one BIG problem (see what I did there) and that's Ben Roethlisberger. The multi-time super bowl winner and future hall of famer is scheduled to return in 2020... for now. Does Winston want to sit and wait for his shot to start in the NFL again? Best case scenario for Jameis here is getting to soak in knowledge and be a bullpen starter for lack of a better term given Roethlisberger's tendency to stay banged up.
The case for the Jaguars all depends on whether or not they think Gardner Minshew is a guy they can build their franchise around, which is certainly up for debate. If they don't go quarterback in the draft, then Winston to the Jags makes a lot of sense. They boast a decent running game and offensive line with a nucleus of weapons that are nothing to sneeze at. Winston would also get to stay in state where he's developed children's foundations and football camps. Speaking of staying in state...
Sports, just like life, have a funny way of coming full circle. Winston was going to battle Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting quarterback position for one Florida-based franchise... how about another Sunshine State competition? Okay so all that irony aside, how realistic is this? It all depends on the draft plan for the Dolphins and whether or not a quarterback they believe in is available at their pick. Brian Flores is a young coach who impressed down the stretch last year and could provide Winston with fresh leadership.
Next is a group of teams that I'm not sold on being in the running for Winston's services but they also aren't totally out of the question.
New England Patriots
Do Tom Brady and Jameis Winston just switch teams? This possibility is obviously out there, but not something I in which I put a whole lot of stock. Winston's skill set doesn't fit the kind of quarterback that the organization usually looks for.
What about the Detroit Lions? This isn't a bad fit and would give a shot of life to the franchise, but it seems the organization still has faith in Matt Stafford and may look to the draft as an insurance policy.
Ron Rivera would give Winston an experienced head coach, and the Redskins have a quarterback position that is likely to be wide open unless Dwayne Haskins has a huge year-two jump. If they don't address the need in the draft, I'm certain they would at least kick the tires on the former FSU QB.
As the options start to thin, this could actually be an outcome for Winston. There are more than enough teams that are uncertain of the future of the quarterback position and taking an experienced back-up with that amount of talent could be huge. Places like Atlanta, New Orleans, and Los Angeles (Rams) could all be looking for a back-up who can eventually grow into a starter.