The Best Potential Landing Spots for Jameis Winston Next Season
While playoff teams like the Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs are enjoying the success of their franchise signal-callers, other organizations are desperately trying to find their own. This is why the upcoming free-agent class, highlighted by Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Teddy Bridgewater, is so intriguing.
However, of the quarterbacks who could potentially change teams this offseason, none is more fascinating than Jameis Winston.
The 2015 No. 1 overall pick is both marvelous and maddening at the same time. At just 26 years old and quite physically gifted, Winston has All-Pro potential. He also has a penchant for turning the ball over.
Winston had 33 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in 2019.
Some team will take a chance on him this offseason, hoping it can correct his mistakes and unlock his potential. However, it will take the right coach, offensive system and supporting cast for that to happen.
Here, we'll examine five teams with the pieces in place to help him thrive.
The possibility of the Carolina Panthers becoming a landing spot for Winston will depend largely on the next head coach and what the franchise decides to do with quarterback Cam Newton.
If they move on from Newton—a trade is possible, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport—then Winston could be a perfect replacement.
Kyle Allen was a serviceable starter in 2019, but Winston has the skill set to take advantage of Carolina's roster. The Panthers have an All-Pro running back in Christian McCaffrey, a true No. 1 receiver in DJ Moore and a reliable veteran tight end in Greg Olsen.
Winston would have plenty of quality targets in the passing game, but McCaffrey's presence means he wouldn't have to carry the offense as he did in Tampa Bay. The running back, who produced 1,387 rushing yards and 1,005 receiving yards in 2019, would take a ton of pressure off the quarterback. In theory, that would lead to fewer forced throws.
Winston's ability to attack all areas of the field would also aid McCaffrey. Defensive concern about the deep ball would open more running lanes and underneath routes.
Financially, adding Winston is feasible even though the Panthers are projected to have just $27 million in cap space. Moving Newton would free up another $21.1 million. Carolina could then sign Winston to a competitive deal and still have room to play in free agency.
When the Colts were surprised by Luck's sudden retirement this past offseason, Reich helped turn Brissett into a viable starter. While Indianapolis' seven-win season was a disappointment after it reached the playoffs in 2018, it was not the disaster it could have been.
Yet the Colts are not sold on Brissett as a long-term option.
"The jury is still out," general manager Chris Ballard said after the regular season ended, per ESPN's Mike Wells.
The biggest issue with Brissett has been his inability to push the ball downfield the way Luck once did, but replacing him with Winston would take care of that.
Again, the Colts would have to reign in Winston's turnover issues for this to be a perfect pairing. However, in terms of skill set, the 26-year-old signal-caller would be an ideal fit for Reich's offense. His deep-ball accuracy is similar to Luck's, and he would be able to take advantage of speedy receivers T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell.
A more prevalent downfield passing attack would also open up running room for Marlon Mack, who is coming off the first 1,000-yard season of his career.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers were one of the NFL's biggest disappointments this season. After winning 12 games and reaching the playoffs in 2018, they fell to 5-11. A big part of the problem was the play of Philip Rivers.
Rivers has produced Hall of Fame-worthy numbers throughout his NFL career, but he fell off dramatically in 2019. His deep-ball accuracy was noticeably diminished, and his decision-making was nearly as frustrating as Winston's.
He finished the season with 23 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions.
Replacing Rivers with Winston would improve at least one part of the equation. Head coach Anthony Lynn would have to work on ratcheting down the giveaways, but at least the offense would be able to threaten downfield again.
As far as talent goes, the Chargers have plenty to offer Winston. He'd get to throw the ball to Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler and Hunter Henry—if the Chargers are able to retain their tight end in free agency.
While the Miami Dolphins don't currently have the surrounding talent to support Winston, that could change quickly. Armed with three first-round picks and a projected $94.3 million in cap space, they have the tools to build around a young quarterback immediately.
That quarterback could be obtained with one of Miami's first-round picks—the earliest coming at No. 5—but he could also arrive through free agency. The Dolphins have shown they're willing to take a chance on another team's castoff before, trading for 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen last offseason.
The cupboard isn't entirely bare in Miami, either.
Winston would have himself a No. 1 receiver in DeVante Parker and a budding tight end in Mike Gesicki. The Dolphins could use some of their cap space and draft capital to strengthen the offensive line, add a workhorse running back and further bolster the receiving corps.
With new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey running the show, the Dolphins offense would immediately become one of the most interesting in the league. His spread passing attack is a perfect fit for a bomber like Winston, while Brian Flores is a detail-oriented head coach who would start working on the quarterback's turnover issues from day one.
Flores turned perhaps the most talent-starved roster into a legitimate threat by the end of the 2019 season. It would be fun to see just how far he could take Winston.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are a fit for Winston, even if head coach Bruce Arians is open to the idea of running with a different signal-caller.
"With another quarterback? Oh yeah. If we can win with this one, we can definitely win with another one, too," the coach said, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
That doesn't mean Arians doesn't want to continue winning with the quarterback he has. Aside from the turnovers and a handful of head-scratching decisions, Winston was phenomenal in his first season under Arians. He paced the NFL with 5,109 passing yards and led the Buccaneers to seven wins, their most since 2016.
Yes, the turnovers are a fatal flaw. But if Arians can coach them out of Winston's game, the Buccaneers could become a real threat in the NFC South.
Arians has shown the ability to coach up quarterbacks during his time in the NFL. He rejuvenated Carson Palmer's career with the Arizona Cardinals, helped make Andrew Luck into a rookie Pro Bowler with the Indianapolis Colts and worked to turn Ben Roethlisberger into a Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Winston already has chemistry with pass-catchers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. With a year of experience in Arians' system now under his belt, his best fit in 2020 may be in his current home.
All cap information via Spotrac.