Jackson, 33, is due $9.77 million in base salary, per Pewter, and he is coming off a season where he started nine games and hauled in 33 catches for 543 yards and three touchdowns as the Bucs went 6-10.
Jackson is seen as a financial liability given that he’s weathered wrist, rib and knee injuries the past two seasons and had his worst year since 2010 last season.
However, the wide receiver free-agent market and draft class are thin, and Jackson brings five years of veteran leadership and experience in Tampa for a young team that hopes to build around quarterback Jameis Winston.
Because the receiver market this offseason is expected to be weak, Jackson could likely net a respectable deal elsewhere, which would leave the Bucs scrambling to find a replacement at a similar dollar value.
|2016 NFL Free Agents — Notable WRs|
The Bucs are also in a comfortable cap position, with $46.5 million to spend, per Spotrac, so keeping Jackson wouldn’t necessarily prevent them financially from filling other needs.
Under new head coach Dirk Koetter, who was promoted after one year as offensive coordinator, the Bucs were fifth in total offense (375.9 yards per game) but struggled to find the end zone. Tampa ranked 20th in scoring (21.4 points) and didn’t have a receiver catch more than three touchdowns.
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Winston had a touchdown-to-interception rate of 22-15 and also accounted for three fumbles. But his improvement with ball security will only come with practice and game repetitions.
He did become just the third quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to throw for more than 4,000 yards, joining Andrew Luck and Cam Newton, who have burgeoned into the league’s elite, and Winston possesses the raw talent that could make him one of the best in a division that also houses Newton, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.
While Jackson’s financial figures aren’t ideal given his limited contributions the past two seasons, by retaining a familiar face to help bring along Winston—coupled with the likely return of star running back Doug Martin—Tampa can focus on bolstering the offensive line and bringing in another slot receiver this offseason.
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