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When it became clear this week that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were replacing quarterback Jameis Winston with the venerable Tom Brady, The Athletic’s Greg Auman tweeted that Winston “will be the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lead the NFL in passing yards, then play for a different team the following season.”
The spirit of Auman’s point will stand regardless of Winston’s fate now that his time in Tampa is over, but there’s one thing he might have wrong.
Are we certain Winston will play for a different team in 2020? Are we sure he’ll play for anybody?
In the last couple of days, NFL Network’s Mike Giardi reported the New England Patriots are unlikely to pursue Winston, and ESPN’s John Keim reported “there is no chance” Winston will wind up with the Washington Redskins.
Meanwhile, there have been no reports regarding interested teams.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any or will never be any, but it’s not a good omen for Winston’s short-term future. Ditto for Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers, who have struggled to find a trade partner for the quarterback, according to The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue.
Winston might not even be the next domino to fall.
Paul Sancya/Associated Press
The supply-and-demand dynamics are quickly shifting at the position, which has already been addressed by the Bucs, Panthers, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints.
Seventeen teams employ a projected starting quarterback who makes at least $20 million per year, according to Spotrac.
Of the remaining 15, 10 have projected or solidified franchise quarterbacks on rookie contracts (the Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants, New York Jets).
Three of the remaining five (the Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins) are widely expected and well positioned to land the draft’s top three quarterbacks.
The only teams remaining are the Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars.
In this game of musical chairs, the music is about to stop, and there won’t be a seat left for last year’s NFC passing touchdown king.
Now, close to 100 of the league’s active roster spots belong to quarterbacks every season, and nobody is suggesting Winston isn’t one of the 50 best quarterbacks, let alone 100 best. But he remains unemployed for two potential reasons.
First, he might not be willing to take backup-level money and could wait for an injury to alter the demand for his services this spring or summer. And second, his all-or-nothing style doesn’t make him well suited for a backup role.
Winston wasn’t just the league leader in passing yards last season, but he also led the NFL in interceptions by a margin of 42.9 percent. His 30 picks (nobody else had more than 21) were six more than Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady threw in 64 combined starts.
Most interceptions since 2015
- 1. Winston, 88
- 2. Philip Rivers, 76
- T3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, 60
- T3. Ben Roethlisberger, 60
- 5. Eli Manning, 59
And Winston also fumbled a dozen times in 2019 (he lost five). Those 42 picks and fumbles are hard to swallow.
Most interceptions plus fumbles, 2019
- 1. Winston, 42
- 2. Daniel Jones, 30
- 3. Kyle Allen, 29
- 4. Philip Rivers, 28
- 5. Baker Mayfield, 27
“It’s frustrating,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said in December, per John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times. “To see the growth was great. To see the regression in some areas was very frustrating.”
When a team’s starter is hurt, they typically want to turn to a reliable game manager who can steer the ship and avoid crippling mistakes. That’s not Winston. So while he has a higher ceiling than, say, Case Keenum or Chase Daniel, he might not be as appealing in a No. 2 role.
Winston is only 26 and is coming off a prolific season, and he has all the physical attributes teams want in a franchise quarterback. But it’s still easy to see that he could remain out in the cold for a while.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter. Or don’t. It’s entirely your choice.