Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Is the NFL Over Jameis and Cam Already?

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterApril 1, 2020

TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 29: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers walks off the field after a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

What the future holds for Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, the NFL's quandary over when to start the season and a game every football fan can get behind right now. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.


1. What about Winston?

Former Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has yet to find a new team in free agency, but that doesn't mean his NFL career is over.

The 2015 No. 1 overall pick has attracted the attention of at least a half-dozen teams. His future will be a case study in how teams view risk and reward, and how tempting quarterback talent is, even if that talent is highly flawed.

By now, you know about the two football sides of Winston. Last season offered a good example. There was the quarterback who passed for a career-high 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns. But there also was the gunslinger who became the first player in NFL history to throw at least 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in one season.

Winston was such a turnover machine that Bucs head coach Bruce Arians finally gave up on him.

"For Jameis, for me, it was the last two ballgames, the regression back to the interceptions," Arians recently said on CBS Sports Radio's Tiki and Tierney. "... It was disheartening because he had made progress, then he regressed.

"I think for him, it's to get into somewhere as a backup right now," Arians added. "It looks like all the starting jobs are done. Get in somewhere where he can sit and learn the system. Maybe a year, for an older person and take over, or get in competition with a younger guy."

The Buccaneers will instead be going with Tom Brady, who has made a career out of being careful with the ball.

Winston still has his believers, though teams say much of the interest is coming from front offices, not coaches. That's because of the belief that if someone like Arians, whom one coach called one of the most underrated quarterback gurus in NFL history, can't fix Winston's turnover issues, no one can.

Arians is far from perfect. His offenses sometimes leave quarterbacks vulnerable to the pass rush because he likes to throw deep so often. But Winston smashed his previous career high with 30 picks, and he had five lost fumbles as well.

Still, Winston is incredibly talented and is only 26. If he fixes the turnoversan admittedly huge caveat—he could be a steal for whichever team signs him.

Put everything together, and it's easy to see why no team has signed Winston yet. There's a lot of potential there, but there's also the risk that he is what he is at this point: a serially turnover-prone QB. Much depends on the kind of deal Winston is willing to accept and how much a team is willing to squint hard and see what Arians hoped Winston could be, not what he was.


2. Fertile futures

TAMPA, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 29: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks to pass during a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

One AFC assistant coach listed five places (not in any order) where he thinks Winston could blossom:

• Steelers: "He fits into what they do pretty well, and you know Ben [Roethlisberger] will miss a few games [due to injury]."

• Packers: "Having him around Aaron Rodgers would only help him."

• Saints: "Same situation except with Drew Brees, and a great coach in [Sean] Payton."

• Ravens: "One of the best offensive staffs in football."

• Rams: "He could energize that offense."


3. Unfair fight

Ben Margot/Associated Press

There's something that needs to be saidbluntly—about Cam Newton. He was totally screwed.

Not just this year by the Panthers, who released him a week into free agency. But in many ways, Newton has been unfairly scrutinized his entire career. Even some coaches and front-office executives who have been extremely critical of him over the years are starting to say the same.

Newton was never surrounded by top weapons for much of his career in Carolina, yet he still went 68-55-1 as a starter there. Off the field, he was portrayed as "classless" and "a thug" by some fans, when he never was. Other times, he was portrayed as "pouty" or "soft," when he was actually incredibly determined and physical on the field.

Now, he waits for a job.

This isn't to say anyone should feel sorry for Newton. Feel how you want. He's made a good living and will get a chance to play again. But he hasn't exactly been blessed with easy-to-work-with talent around him, nor was he given the benefit of the doubt as a person. He is good with young fans, charitable and supportive of the game.

He shouldn't have to beg for a job now, hat in hand. He deserves better.


4. Taysom Hill's time is coming soon

Jason Behnken/Associated Press

I've heard from a number of readers and have seen in the media the belief that Saints quarterback Taysom Hill is overrated. That notion has always been nonsense and always will be.

Hill doesn't have the major stats of other quarterbacks because he's been behind Drew Brees since 2017. No, he isn't Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes, but he isn't as far away as some people think, at least according to the person whose opinion counts the most.

"He's a tremendous blocker," Saints head coach Sean Payton said during an appearance on ESPN's Get Up this week. "He's physical. I don't think people realize how fast he is. He's probably one of the three or four fastest guys on our team. ... I think Taysom sees himself as being a starting quarterback in this league, and we do, too."

Given Teddy Bridgewater's departure, it's only a matter of time before Hill starts for the Saints. It may be as soon as next year. When he does, don't be surprised if he stuns a lot of critics.


5. Tiger kings

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Quarterback Joe Burrow of LSU looks on during NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

That the Dolphins might attempt to trade up with the Bengals to get LSU quarterback Joe Burrow at No. 1 in the draft isn't shocking. The possibility has been discussed inside the league for months now. 

The question is which other teams will try to pry Burrow from the Bengals? Team executives believe there will be at least four or five teams willing to offer a swap of picks and more to Cincinnati.

But unless any of these shoppers are willing to offer something like their entire draft, as the Saints once did for Ricky Williams years ago, no one believes the Bengals will bite. That means Burrow will likely be a Bengal.


6. Lies, damned lies and, well, more lies

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Quarterback Justin Herbert of Oregon throws a pass during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It's always seemed that most teams consider Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa the best quarterback in the draft after Burrow. But based on several teams I've spoken with, that view might be changing. Oregon's Justin Herbert may have moved into a dead heat with Tagovailoa for the draft's second-best-quarterback honors.

Again, it's draft time, so everyone lies. It's also true that Tagovailoa has clearly seemed a step better for a long time. But teams constantly overthink the draft, which means it's possible Herbert has closed the gap.

Whichever team selects him better hope they're right.


7. Season's start is far from certain

Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

While the NFL continues to believe the 2020 season will go on as plannedand the odds favor thatI'm still hearing some doubts from team executives that it will be feasible.

League officials are reading and watching the same data we are, and the biggest concern remains that the coronavirus is spreading at different rates all over the country. Even if the virus runs its course in New York by June or July, it might not have in Florida or Texas. Or a half-dozen other states with NFL teams.

Another complication could be the players' union, which may not go along with any potential plan from the owners.

Like the pandemic itself, the possibilities are fluid and changing daily, which could make the decision of whenor ifto play one of the trickiest situations the NFL has faced in several decades.


8. Together alone

Whenever the NFL does begin the 2020 season, it may build or utilize a central complex where all games are played with only necessary personnel, a limited number of media and no fans. The games would essentially be broadcast from a souped-up television studio.

It would be a different, jarring experience, but the games would go on and the TV revenue would still flow.

At this point, everything is an option.


9. Can no one use Jadeveon Clowney?

Ron Schwane/Associated Press

Jadeveon Clowney remains unsigned two weeks into free agency, and it's mostly because of one thing: money.

Yes, you're probably shocked that money plays a part in contracts. The Seahawks and Clowney aren't that far apart on money, but they're far enough apart for it to be problematic.

But as Jay Glazer reported at The Athletic, there just isn't much interest in the veteran defensive end right now.

It will be. Trust me on this: The Seahawks, and other teams, like Clowney. Just not as much as he'd like.


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Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.


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