NFL Rumors: Jameis Winston Expected to Return to Buccaneers in 2020

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2019

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston passes against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
John Froschauer/Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are reportedly planning to retain starting quarterback Jameis Winston, who leads the NFL with 4,573 passing yards this season, for the 2020 campaign.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported Saturday the Bucs are still deciding whether to use the $27 million franchise tag or the $25 million transition tag on Winston, a pending unrestricted free agent, since they also have to retain outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, the league leader with 16.5 sacks.

The 25-year-old Florida State product's uptick in production under new head coach Bruce Arians, which also includes a career-high 30 touchdown passes, has come at a cost. His 24 interceptions are six more than the next-highest QB (Philip Rivers), and he's also been sacked 43 times, the third-highest total.

Although the Buccaneers have won four straight games to reach 7-7, they're already eliminated from playoff contention heading into Saturday's game against the Houston Texans.

It would make sense for Tampa Bay's brass to get another yearlong look at Winston to see if he can cut down on his mistakes while still posting top-tier numbers before committing to a lucrative long-term contract extension. Rapoport noted a new deal is "unlikely" before the March 10 tag deadline.

The team also doesn't have a clear answer at the position for the future beyond the 2015 Pro Bowl selection. Failed first-round pick Blaine Gabbert is on injured reserve, journeyman Ryan Griffin is the backup, and 2018 undrafted free agent Chad Kanoff is on the practice squad.

If the Bucs decided to let Winston go, they'd be forced to draft his replacement or sign a free agent.

If Tampa does use both of its tags on the signal-caller and Barrett, the one who receives the transition tag is likely to generate outside interest since it doesn't require compensation (signing a player who's under the franchise tag requires two first-round picks). The Bucs could still match any offer sheet, though.

Winston ranks a modest 18th in passer rating, 16th in ESPN's Total QBR and 16th in adjusted net yards per attempt, per Pro Football Reference. Tagging him to see what type of progress he can make during another season under Arians' tutelage makes the most sense, and it sounds like that's what the Bucs are going to do.