One of many key players on this offseason’s unusually large quarterback market, Jameis Winston has not been connected to another team just yet. The Buccaneers have said the former No. 1 overall pick is in their plans, but the team appears to still be determining the structure of Winston’s second NFL contract.
The Bucs are considering a two-year deal for Winston, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter), with said contract being guaranteed at a franchise tag-level rate (of approximately $27MM) for the first year and the second being a team option. This would not be an optimal arrangement for most quarterbacks with Winston’s experience as a starter, but given his inconsistency, a prove-it contract of this sort would make sense for the team.
NFL executives are torn on Winston, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN notes (via ESPN+) the expectation is the Bucs will place their franchise or transition tag on their quarterback during the Feb. 25-March 10 tag window. Even that strategy is complicated.
A new CBA being agreed to next week would prevent teams from using both their franchise and transition tags. If no deal is agreed to next week, the 2011 CBA will permit teams to use both tags, as the league would shift into final-CBA-year rules. That would help the Bucs, who have Shaquil Barrett looming as a UFA as well.
Tampa Bay brass and Barrett’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, are expected to accelerate talks next week at the Combine, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times notes, adding the goal will be to reach an extension agreement by March 10. That would open the door for a Winston tag.
Bruce Arians has said the new Bucs single-season sack record holder “ain’t going anywhere,” and Stroud places Barrett above Winston as the team’s top candidate for the franchise tag. A Barrett tag would be considerably cheaper than one for Winston, with the non-exclusive linebacker tag projected to cost just less than $16MM. Barrett would be worth more than that annually on the open market, despite his lack of sack production going into 2019.
The Bucs hold more than $79MM in cap space — fourth-most in the league — and also have Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul and Breshad Perriman as UFAs-to-be. But Winston and Barrett are the key players here. A Winston transition tag would cost more than $25MM and open the door to the possibility of the Bucs losing him for nothing, but the Bucs may be eyeing one of the other available quarterbacks — a group that includes Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater and trade chips Cam Newton and Andy Dalton — as well.
Extending Barrett or Winston before March 10 would be optimal for the Bucs, but when factoring in the CBA’s role in these negotiations, this is one of the stranger situations a team has encountered in years
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