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FAB 1. An Open Letter To Winston
I begin this week’s SR’s Fab 5 with an open letter to Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, who is coming off a fifth-year option in which he was paid $20.92 million and will either be re-signed by Tampa Bay or become an unrestricted free agent in 2020.
Five years has come and gone so quickly. It seems like yesterday that PewterReport.com had you in all five of its Bucs mock drafts in 2015 while some in the Tampa Bay area media and fan base were clamoring for Marcus Mariota instead.
Mariota may have gotten the better of you in the Rose Bowl and in your first NFL game as a Buccaneer, but you ended the 2019 season with a franchise-record 5,109 passing yards – and became just the eighth QB in NFL history to eclipse 5,000 yards – while Mariota ended the season benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill.
Both you and Mariota came into the league together and will enter free agency together, but you’re going to be making a king’s ransom as an NFL starter with your second contract, while he will likely be looking for a backup job in the league, perhaps on a one-year deal for far fewer dollars.
It’s incredible to note that in over four decades of football, the Buccaneers have never re-signed a quarterback that the team has drafted.
You could be the first.
I hope you’re the first.
I’ve wanted you to be Tampa Bay’s franchise quarterback since the 2015 NFL Draft. You have everything going for you from your amazing work ethic, to your charisma and leadership ability, to your strong arm and playmaking skills.
You can rack up passing yards galore like it’s nobody’s business – even with a broken thumb. Your NFL-record back-to-back 450-yard passing games in two wins this past year was stunning.
Your 33 touchdown passes beat your own Bucs record and were the second most in the league this year.
It’s just those damn turnovers – those 30 interceptions – that are the killer.
You know it, the Bucs know it and Tampa Bay fans know it.
If you didn’t have a track record for throwing interceptions – a lot of interceptions – you would have already been signed to a contract extension by now. It probably would have happened last year instead of the team picking up your fifth-year option.
I think I have been one of the most fair and objective reporters that have covered you during your time in Tampa Bay. I’ve praised your exploits and questioned your shortcomings.
If touchdowns are “A’s” and interceptions are “F’s,” despite throwing for over 5,000 yards and 33 touchdowns, you’d be considered a “C-plus” quarterback this past season because of your league-leading 30 INTs. Yet your agent will try to convince the Bucs that you’re worth “A” money.
Not all of those interceptions are your fault, as PewterReport.com’s Trevor Sikkema pointed out in his extensive All-22 Film Review. But the fewest interceptions you’ve thrown in your Tampa Bay career were 11 in 13 games in 2017. Your fewest INTs over a full 16-game season were 15 in 2015, which was your rookie year.
Yet you doubled that number despite four more years worth of experience – and in a contract year. You’ll have to forgive the Bucs as they pause to figure out what to do with you.
You know the options – a multi-year contract extension, the franchise tag and letting you test the free agent market where you could leave and/or the team could find another option at QB.
Keep in mind that of all the quarterbacks in this year’s playoffs, San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo threw the most interceptions with 13, followed by Houston’s DeShaun Watson, who threw 12. Next up were Buffalo’s Josh Allen, who only threw nine interceptions, and then New England’s Tom Brady, who had just eight INTs.
The 5,000 yards were nice, as were the 33 touchdowns, but at the end of the day that wasn’t good enough to get the Bucs more than seven wins.
Sure, you don’t blow any coverages in the secondary, Jameis, or miss any field goals yourself. Football is the ultimate team sport. But we all know those 30 interceptions had a lot to do with the Bucs missing the playoffs.
The first rule of football is “Don’t beat yourself.”
The number one way for a team to beat itself in football is with turnovers – self-inflicted wounds.
Are you capable of throwing a dozen interceptions or fewer in a season? That’s what Jason Licht, Bruce Arians, Byron Leftwich, Clyde Christensen and the Glazers are wondering right now.
They love everything about you – except for those turnovers.
The Quarterback Whisperer tried to whisper “don’t turn the ball over” to you last year when he cleared the deck for you to be the wire-to-wire starter. If you come back next year prepare for Arians to become The Quarterback Yeller because he’s not going to put up with those INTs in 2020 for the sake of the team.
The thing is, you knew you couldn’t keep turning the ball over – you kept saying it in post-game press conference after post-game press conference. Yet those interceptions kept happening all season until your very last pass.
So forgive the Bucs if they haven’t offered you a contract extension yet. You gave them 30 good reasons to hem and haw – or at least 16.5 reasons, according to Sikkema’s film study.
I think the Bucs want to give you a multi-year contract extension – if you’re reasonable in your contract requests/demands. I think Arians will want to continue to work with you because of his ego – he believes he can fix you because in his mind he can fix any quarterback. Arians’ track record tells him so.
You would be wise to want to stick with Arians and stay in Tampa Bay – even if it means taking less money than you might be able to make elsewhere.
If you could pass for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns in the first year that you, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and others are learning the offense, what does the future hold over the next couple of years once you all master Arians’ playbook?
Former Arizona QB Carson Palmer said you could be in for a “massive year” in 2020. And who would know better than a former Arians quarterback.
Is the grass greener elsewhere? What team are you going to go to that has better weapons and such a pass-happy, quarterback-friendly system?
Your agent, Joel Segal, and likely some friends and family members will want you to get every dime you can out of the Glazers due to your free agent status. There’s nothing wrong with that. They have your best interests in mind.
But Joel Segal isn’t a Buccaneer, nor is anyone in your family.
They don’t go in the locker room. They don’t go on the practice field. They’re in the stands on Sundays while you’re on the field.
The more money you take, the less there is to go around for all of your free agent teammates. The difference between $21 million per year, which is a little more than you made last season in your fifth-year option, and $27 million is not just $6 million. It’s the 2020 salary of Cameron Brate, one of your favorite targets in the red zone.
The difference between $21 million per year and $32 million per year, which you might be tempted to ask for considering that’s what Carson Wentz’s new deal averages per year, is what Brate and Breshad Perriman combined to make in 2019.
Now imagine not having Brate and Perriman because of that extra $11 million.
Imagine the Bucs not being able to extend Godwin’s contract this offseason.
Jameis, if we’re being honest here, you’re not worth $30 million – just because that happens to be the the current going rate for QBs.
You’ve been to one Pro Bowl because a slew of QBs backed out during your rookie year, and you’ve yet to guide this team to the playoffs. The Bucs have had just one winning season out of the five years you’ve played in Tampa Bay.
I would buy the excuses about a lack of a running game, the missed field goals and the porous defense if you had protected the ball better, but with over 100 turnovers since you’ve entered the league, you’ve been just as much of a culprit as your teammates when it comes to missing the postseason.
Now if you had averaged only 10 or 11 interceptions per season you’d have a much stronger argument, but you’ve averaged 17.6 INTs per year.
If you’re not worth $30 million – and consider that every QB (Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Jared Goff, Matt Ryan and Wentz) that averages at least that much money per year has been to the Super Bowl – then how much are you worth in my mind? Somewhere between $27-$28 million per year like Kirk Cousins, Jacoby Brissett, Matthew Stafford and Garoppolo?
All of those QBs except for Brissett have made it to the playoffs, and the Colts were foolish to pay him that much.
Jameis, I would actually put you in a class between Drew Brees and Tom Brady – two of the best ever to play the game.
Of course, Brees is the 12th-highest paid quarterback and averages $25 million per season, while Brady, the greatest QB of all time, is the 14th-highest paid signal caller at $23 million.
Why are two future Hall of Famers fine with making less than Brissett, Stafford and Derek Carr? Because they want to win.
Brees and Brady know that the more money they demand the less money their teams will have for weapons to put around them on offense and for defenders who can create turnovers to give the ball back to them.
Yes, Brees is 41 and has already made hundreds of millions of dollars in the NFL, so it’s easier for him to make that call because he isn’t on his second contract. He’s on his fourth or fifth contract most likely. The same is true for the 43-year old Brady.
But you see yourself in their class one day, don’t you, Jameis? You see yourself playing until your 40 and winning Super Bowls.
So why not bet on yourself like Shaquil Barrett did and Jason Pierre-Paul did this past year in Tampa Bay?
Ask for a base salary of $23 million – equal to what Brady got last year – with an incentive package that rewards you for Pro Bowls, for making the playoffs, for leading the league in passing yards, for hitting 30 touchdowns or more – and for throwing less than 15 interceptions. Have those incentive clauses be worth an extra $10 million in total that could put you in the top 3 QB realm moneywise.
Your agent isn’t going to tell you to take a little less, nor is a family member.
But it’s not their contract. It’s yours.
It’s not their career. It’s yours.
It’s not their team. It’s yours.
With over half a dozen starters among the 19 looming unrestricted free agents, including yourself, how much you ask for/demand will affect how many can return.
Do you want Brate to stay in Tampa Bay? Would you like Perriman back to throw to?
Would you like the Bucs to be able to keep Barrett, the league’s sack leader, and Pierre-Paul, who brought leadership and 8.5 sacks to the team over the last 10 games of the season?
Do you want a career like Brees and Brady? Then learn some lessons from the way they handle their business with a team-first attitude.
There was a time when Stafford was the league’s highest-paid quarterback and highest-paid player. Did that big contract get the Lions to the playoffs? No.
I would love to see you back in Tampa Bay, Jameis – continuing to work with Arians and throwing to Evans and Godwin. But it has to be at the right price.
The amount you ask for has to be reasonable. Asking for $30 million or more per year is not reasonable. The records you set this year and throughout your five years in the NFL are great, but rings are way better than records.
Just ask Dan Marino.
One last word of advice as you enter into your first contract negotiations with the Bucs since your rookie deal. Ultimately you will be dealing with the Glazers – not just Licht and director of football administration Mike Greenberg.
Be careful how you tread because the Glazers have loyally stuck by you twice – during the pre-draft process and again after the Uber incident that led to your three-game suspension in 2018. Loyalty means a lot to them.
If I’m the Glazers, I’m expecting some loyalty from you, Jameis. I’m expecting a little bit of a hometown discount considering you’re just 26 and haven’t fully arrived as a perennial Pro Bowl and playoff quarterback.
If you or your agent somehow crosses the Glazers, they could opt to move in a different direction in free agency or the draft. There are other options this year.
Just keep that in mind – and ask for a fair, incentive-laden contract. Good luck, Jameis.
Here’s hoping you break another Bucs record and become the first QB in franchise history to get re-signed.