South Notes: Bucs, Winston, Falcons, Titans

Jameis Winston‘s upcoming three-game suspension presents an interesting contractual quagmire for the Buccaneers, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Tampa Bay has already exercised Winston’s $20MM+ option for 2019, but that figure is guaranteed for injury only. Instead of hoping Winston doesn’t get injured over the next several months (and therefore lock himself into his 2019 salary), the Buccaneers could approach their quarterback regarding an extension, albeit one that would erase his 2019 guarantee. In such a scenario, Tampa would tack on a few years to Winston’s deal in exchange for him giving up next season’s guarantee, using the threat of release as leverage. While the idea makes sense for a purely financial perspective, it could be public relations nightmare to extend Winston’s contract now, when he’s fresh off the sexual assault incident that led to his ban.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two South divisions:

  • The Falcons are reportedly discussing a new deal for Julio Jones after the star wideout expressed displeasure with his contract figures, but Jones doesn’t exactly have the leverage to press for a new accord, as Joel Corry of CBSSports.com argues. Jones still has three years left on his current pact, and most teams wouldn’t even consider renegotiating with that timeline, especially given that Jones’ five-year deal was frontloaded. Although wide receivers like Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, and Jarvis Landry saw nice pay bumps this offseason, the top of the receiver market hasn’t yet been reset, per Corry, meaning there’s not a ton of room for movement regarding Jones. Instead, Jones — who’s collecting $14.25MM annually — should instead press for an incentive-based package in 2017, similar to what Rob Gronkowski has received from the Patriots, says Corry.
  • Derrick Henry is the favorite to lead the Titans in both carries and rushing yards, but free agent addition Dion Lewis is likely to put up more total yards from scrimmage, guesses Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com. Lewis, who inked a four-year, $19.8MM deal with Tennessee in March, actually out-carried Henry (180 vs. 176) in 2017, so it might be a mistake to cast Lewis as solely a third-down back (especially given that he garnered only 36 targets in New England’s offense last year). While Henry may the bell-cow, both he and Lewis will likely be part of a revamped running game under new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. Further down the depth chart, undrafted rookie Akrum Wadley appears to be making a run at a roster spot.
  • In case you missed it, the Texans will require a “collective effort” to replace tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, who was forced to retire earlier this year after suffering yet another concussion.
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