The conundrum of deciding what to do with a quarterback that statistically put up MVP-type numbers in some categories, yet also threw 30 interceptions continues for the Bucs’ brass. Do the Buccaneers sign Jameis Winston to a long-term deal, offer up the franchise tag, or even let him walk in free agency?
That is the decision the Glazer family, head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht are presumably still trying to figure out nearly a month after the end of the 2019 season.
Players tend to have each other’s backs, particularly when they share a locker room, but what did opposing players have to say about what the Bucs should do with Winston in 2020?
A handful of Pro Bowl players went on the record to say they believe Winston deserves to be back in Tampa Bay for at least one more year.
Cardinals safety Budda Baker, who faced Winston and the Bucs this past season, shared his thoughts on Winston’s future in Tampa Bay.
“That is above my pay grade,” Baker said. “But I believe he is a great quarterback. It was his first year in the system – in B.A.’s system. Give him another shot. Give him another year and see what he can do. He’s been throwing for crazy yards, it has just been the turnovers. But another year with B.A. and I think he will do a lot better.”
Lions cornerback Darius Slay also got to see first hand what Winston can do on the field as the Buccaneers beat the Lions last December in a game that Winston threw for over 450 yards.
“It (throwing for 5,109 yards) tells you he has a strong arm and he can throw the ball,” Slay said. “5,000 yards? He’s no slouch. He just had bad reads at times. And forces a lot of stuff in there. But he is a great talent and to throw for over 5,000 yards, that’s no accident. It’s not a question what the Bucs have to do. All you have to do is teach him to not throw the ball to the other players. It’s real simple. Other than that, he’ll be good.”
A player who may have a little bias towards Winston is Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who played with him at Florida State for one season.
“Yeah I would bring him back, but I can’t tell them (Buccaneers) what to do,” Cook said. “Jameis knows if he doesn’t turn the ball over like he did, I think he will be one of the best in the game. I still think he is one of the best in the game. I think Jameis will only get better. He is still a young player, and as person I love him and as a player I love him. I feel like he is getting better.”
Cardinals Pro Bowl outside linebacker Chandler Jones didn’t want to play general manager, but offered up his thoughts from what he has seen and what he knows about Winston.
“Jameis is a strong quarterback, and he throws the ball well and has a strong arm,” Jones said. “What I admire about him the most is, he stands in the pocket even with guys rushing him, he will stand in there strong and throw the ball. He led the NFL in passing yards, right? People can talk about the negatives, but what about the positives? He led the NFL is passing yards. That is huge. Over guys like Drew Brees, Tom Brady – all these guys here in the Pro Bowl? He had a good year and solid season. Hats off to him, but I’m not a G.M. I am just a pass rusher.”
One Pro Bowl quarterback PewterReport.com spoke with didn’t want to go on record to discuss Winston, but did bring up the positives and the negatives.
“Honestly, I haven’t studied him enough, but on the outside his numbers were great – other than the interceptions. But it was his first year with Bruce, right? That’s a tough call. But he is a talented player. No question.”
Three of Winston’s 30 interceptions came against the Colts in a late season win at Raymond James Stadium. Linebacker Darius Leonard had two of those three interceptions on the afternoon, but despite the turnovers, Winston led the Bucs to a 38-35 victory, throwing for 458 yards and four touchdowns, with much of it coming after breaking a bone in his thumb in the second quarter.
“You know what you didn’t say? All of his touchdowns. He is a great quarterback and a lot of you all (in the media) don’t give him enough credit,” Leonard said. “Yes, he throws interceptions, but what quarterback doesn’t? You can look at a lot of the Hall of Fame quarterbacks and they had years where they threw 25 or more interceptions. He is a great quarterback and has been nothing but great since coming into the league. You all need to give him his respect.”
Jaguars defensive tackle Calais Campbell knows Arians well, having played for him in Arizona. And Campbell has also played against Winston a number of times, including this past season when the Bucs won at Jacksonville.
“One thing that makes Jameis special is he has a short-term memory, and that’s a special thing,” Campbell said. “He is still a fairly young, but to throw for 5,000 yards? That is incredible. And his touchdowns are incredible. But you have to take care of the ball. He has to keep working on it. But who is better (that is available)? You never know what a rookie is going to do. You can go get a rookie, but they are unproven.
“If you can go get someone better – then great. But how many people are better? But I like him and if it were me I would bring him back. But that is just me. And I love B.A. and he is one of the most real and blunt (coaches) and he will tell you exactly how he feels. A lot of that is to motivate guys. And I think they will have a good relationship going forward. But it is the (coaches) job to find someone better if they can. If they can find a player better than Jameis then it is their duty to do that. But at the same time, Jameis is still there with those numbers.”