When it was announced last week that the San Francisco 49ers and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo reached a deal that would pay an average of $27.5 million per season, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston’s agent Greg Genske probably perked up in his office and offered up a big smile.
Winston is going to get paid soon. Big time.
The No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft is coming off statistically his best season in three years in the league (completion percentage, QB rating, and yards per game) despite playing with an injured shoulder and missing three games. And while the jury is still out on if Winston is indeed a franchise quarterback that will lead the Bucs to the Super Bowl in the future, what isn’t in question is money that quarterbacks are making in the NFL.
The Bucs have until May 2 to pick up Winston’s fifth-year option, which seems to be a foregone conclusion. They’ll do it.
By doing do, Tampa Bay is committing to paying Winston the average of the Top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL. In 2017 that number was $21.26 million. With Graoppolo’s new deal, that number will be rising.
Winston is slated to make just over $8 million this season, which is the final year of his rookie contract. All NFL teams have the right to pick up a fifth-year option on players drafted in the first round.
The Bucs chose to do that with Mike Evans, the team’s first-round pick in 2014 who is playing on his fifth-year option and will make $13.2 million unless he and Tampa Bay can reach a long-term contract extension. In 2015 the Bucs chose to not pick up the fifth-year option for Doug Martin, the Bucs’ first-round pick in 2012, but signed him to a long-term extension in 2016.
Tampa Bay also has the option of signing Winston to a new deal before his fifth year and the Bucs seem receptive to do so if the numbers were right, although Evans, and a few others, including offensive linemen Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander could take precedence before Winston’s new deal is done. Trevor Sikkema wrote on Saturday that Evans’ agent Deryk Gilmore told PewterReport.com that he and his client are in no rush to sign a new deal and are willing to play out his fifth-year option.
Scott Reynolds reported in Friday’s SR’s Fab 5 column that the Bucs want to lock up as many current players as possible and will look to do so this offseason, planning talks with offensive tackle Donovan Smith, center Ali Marpet and tight end Cameron Brate. Where Winston fits in the pecking order is yet to be seen, however the longer it takes, the more money it will take to extend Winston.
With the Garoppolo deal now in place (the total value is $137.5 million), and a new deal for Detroit’s Matthew Stafford ($135 million), in addition to former Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins hitting the free agent market next month, quarterback salaries are on the rise and the Bucs would be wise from a financial perspective to get a new deal done as soon as possible.
Winston has the resumé to be one of the top paid quarterbacks in the league. With 11,636 yards so far, Winston has the third-most yards through his first three seasons in NFL history, trailing just Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.
When Winston does, in fact, sign a new deal, he will most likely become the highest paid quarterback in the NFC South ahead of Drew Brees ($24.25 million), Cam Newton ($20.76 million) and Matt Ryan ($20.75). While few would say Winston is the best quarterback in his division, as the other three have all led their teams to a Super Bowl appearance, it is all about timing. And the timing says the Bucs would be best to lock up Winston as soon as possible.
And one other interesting fact, when Winston signs a new contract, he will be the first Bucs drafted quarterback to earn a second contract. None of the team’s former first-round picks – Doug Williams, Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer and Josh Freeman – signed a contract extension in Tampa Bay. That’s an amazing statistic from a franchise that has been around for 42 seasons.