What Will it Cost the Bucs to Keep Jameis Winston?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a huge decision to make this offseason at the game's most important position.
Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft and Tampa Bay's franchise quarterback ever since, is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The Bucs have multiple options to make sure he returns for the 2020 season, but none of them are cheap.
Tampa Bay could put the franchise tag on Winston, which would pay him around $27 million for the 2020 season and prevent him from going elsewhere. For comparison, Winston made nearly $21 million in 2019, on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract.
What would a long-term contract extension cost? CBS Sports' Pete Prisco gave his thoughts on Tampa's WDAE Radio (via JoeBucsFan):
If I’m Jameis, I’m asking for $30 million guaranteed money. Again, Dak Prescott’s probably going to get [$35 million annually]. The new CBA money is going to go up. What I’ve been saying all along is you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t with those guys. And Dak included [and] Jameis Winston. What if you do if don’t bring him back? If you’re the Bucs, what do you do?
That kind of money may seem high for a quarterback who just threw 30 interceptions, but that's also the going rate for even an above-average QB in today's NFL. Winston also just led the league in passing yards, and finished second in touchdown passes. For all his faults, Winston will make sure those numbers aren't forgotten in contract negotiations.
The only cheap option for the Bucs at quarterback this offseason would be to draft a rookie, but I'd be surprised if Bruce Arians wants to start over at that position with a rookie, even with the reduced salary cap impact.
If the Bucs want to bring in another veteran, such as Teddy Bridgewater or Philip Rivers, it would still cost them around the same amount of money as it would to keep Winston. That being the case, it wouldn't be surprising to see Winston back for at least one more season, no matter the price tag.