The music has stopped on the Offseason of the Quarterback. We can now say that what we suspected to be the case (what feels like a lifetime ago, well before we all wound up in quarantine) has proved true: This was the rare year when supply at the game’s most important position outdistanced demand.
It’s proved through the unemployment of Joe Flacco, the Super Bowl XLVII MVP cut last week, and Cam Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP let go after the team that took him first in 2011 couldn’t find a trade partner. Also available, though still on a roster, is Andy Dalton, who led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first five NFL years, and whose best option now may be staying as a bridge and mentor to his presumed replacement, Joe Burrow.
Then, there’s Jameis Winston.
Like each of the three guys named above, Winston was a highly drafted Day 1 starter. Unlike the others, we still don’t have a clear picture of what he is as an NFL player. He’s the only one of these four that didn’t make it to a second contract with his first team, and he’s also the only one still in his 20s, having just turned 26. And his job uncertainty is indicative of that relative glut of quarterbacks that clogged the market last week..
In past years, someone with Winston’s talent would be worth taking a flyer on, the way the Eagles did years ago after Mark Sanchez flamed out with the Jets, or like the Niners once did on Jaguars washout Blaine Gabbert, or as the Titans did last year on Ryan Tannehill. Even Josh Freeman, a much more spectacular Bucs bust, got another go-around, being traded to the Vikings, where he got to start right away (that didn’t last long).
Now? Try and find a spot for Winston, and you’ll see the problem for a player who may have led the league in picks last year (30!), but also led it in passing yards (5,109), and still has the talent that once made him a national champion in college and the first pick in the 2015 draft.
The two teams with presumed openings—the Chargers and Patriots—have been patient in waiting for the market to shake out. New England is likely to spend 2020 (as they carry a $13.5 million dead-money hit from Tom Brady’s last deal) straightening its quarterback financials out, meaning they’d probably only be interested in thrift-priced throwers. The Chargers, meanwhile, are eyeing the draft class, with Tyrod Taylor there as the bridge.
Vegas would’ve been perfect, like Tennessee was for Tannehill last year, but the man supplanted in Nashville last season, Winston’s draft classmate Marcus Mariota, already took the spot there. Jacksonville and Denver have depth-chart openings but may not want to inject Winston into the mix with young quarterbacks they like.
And that leaves what, to me, might be the best option for Winston: going to a stable, winning franchise with an entrenched starter, where he can learn and develop for a year, and prove his growth as a person, something those in Tampa swear they saw over the last couple of years, even as his shortcomings as a player persisted.
He and GM Jason Licht talked on Friday, a sort of goodbye, and it was affirmed again to Licht that Winston had, deep down, grown into a good man, right from the start of the conversation, when Winston, at a professional low point, began by asking about Licht’s wife and kids. Licht told Winston he was proud of his progress as a person. Coach Bruce Arians has gone to bat for Winston with other teams since.
And yes, it’s understandable why Winston is still out there, given the way things ended in Tampa, with all those picks, and given his off-field issues from years ago, and that he needed all that growth as a guy. And that’s part of the whole thing with this year’s very different shuffling of quarterbacks across the NFL landscape.
It’s not that Winston can’t fix what’s gone wrong for him before. It’s more that there were so few options out there that, really, there was no need for other teams to bet on him being able to do it. Which has left him in this sort of strange spot.
On to your mail…
From RIP MAMBA & GIGI (@raider_chucky): What did you think of the Las Vegas raiders FA and what are targets for them at 12 and 19?
Mamba, I like that Vegas (still getting used to that) made moves early in free agency to shore up issues at corner (Eli Apple) and linebacker (Nick Kwiatkowski, Cory Littleton), because that gives them the flexibility not to press needs in the draft—and they do go into April with a surprisingly small grocery list. That opens things up for them to go with (cliché alert) the best available players with five picks in the Top 100 (12, 19, 80, 81, 91).
The one remaining hole is for a receiver. Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow are nice pieces, but the Raiders could use some more at the position. The good news? They’ll likely have a shot at Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb or maybe even a choice between them at 12, and, if they want to wait, there’s so much depth at the position, there should be good players available through all five of the aforementioned picks.
That all underscores the fact that, after a really strong 2019 offseason, Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden have that roster in better shape than you may think.
From S Crossover (@S_Crossover): How does the outcome of the Robby Anderson situation impact the Jets draft intentions, if at all?