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FAB 1. Bucs May Have To Use Franchise Tag On Winston

The NFL could be facing an unprecedented game of musical chairs at the quarterback position the likes we haven’t seen in quite some time – if ever. With Drew Brees indicating his return to New Orleans this week to play a 20th season in the NFL, here are the headlining free agent QBs whose contracts expired after the 2019 regular season.

New England’s Tom Brady
Los Angeles’ Philip Rivers
Dallas’ Dak Prescott
Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill
Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston
New Orleans’ Teddy Bridgewater

Carolina’s Cam Newton and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton could be on the trading block this offseason, as could Las Vegas’ Derek Carr – if the Raiders can land Brady in free agency.

New Orleans’ Taysom Hill is also a restricted free agent that could draw some interest from another team, although the Saints want to keep him as Brees’ heir apparent, and will likely apply the $5 million tender that requires first-round draft pick compensation if he’s signed to an offer sheet by another team.

Then factor in at least three quarterbacks that will be drafted in the first round in LSU’s Joe Burrow, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert – each of whom should start as a rookie – and you’re talking about possibly a dozen starting quarterbacks finding new homes in 2020. That means potentially one-third of the league might have a new starting quarterback, especially if Brady leaves the Patriots and goes somewhere else like Tennessee, which may be the front-runner to land his services, according to NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington.

Now if Brady returns to New England, Brees and Hill return to New Orleans, Prescott returns to Dallas, and Tannehill returns to Tennessee, the free agent quarterback market will be much less chaotic come March 18 when NFL free agency officially begins and players can sign with new teams.

But still, there will be some QB movement in 2020 as Rivers, Bridgewater, Dalton and perhaps Newton and Winston could be playing for new teams this year – in addition to the three first-round rookie quarterbacks entering the league.

Patriots QB Tom Brady

Patriots QB Tom Brady – Photo by: Getty Images

Yet there is one aspect of this potential quarterback carousel that not many other than ProFootballTalk.com are really talking about, and it’s the timing.

Timing, as they say, is everything in life.

The NFL could be on the verge of seeing the biggest game of free agent musical chairs unfold in mid-March and timing would certainly mean everything to teams involved in it like Tampa Bay.

You know what happens when you play musical chairs – somebody ends up without a chair to sit in when the music stops.

Let me explain. What if agents for Brady and Rivers put out feelers that the Bucs are legitimately in play for their clients, and that those QBs want to visit Tampa Bay to meet the coaching staff, the front office, the owners, some of the key players and to have their wives visit the area?

We all know that the Bucs wouldn’t necessarily be at the top of the list for either future Hall of Famer, but if the agent was emphatic that Tampa Bay was in the running for Brady, wouldn’t general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians have to leave the door open to the possibility of potentially landing him – even if it was a long shot?

What would Licht and Arians tell Brady? “Sorry, Tom – not interested.”

Yeah, I don’t think the Glazers would allow that to happen.

Just from an ego standpoint, Licht and Arians would love to land Brady, who is the greatest NFL quarterback of all time.

Remember back to the 2001 offseason when Brad Johnson left Washington. Baltimore was the odds-on favorite to land him, yet he surprised the league and chose Tampa Bay in free agency instead. The next year, playing under new head coach Jon Gruden, Johnson helped the Bucs win their first and only Super Bowl.

But what if Brady – and/or Rivers – wants to go on a free agency tour to multiple teams to find the right fit? While those high-profile, aging stars are being courted by a handful of suitors, other teams that are out of the running will be signing up some of the second-tier quarterbacks like Bridgewater, Tannehill, Winston or making a run at a trade for Dalton or Newton – if he can pass a physical.

Chargers QB Philip Rivers and Raiders head coach Jon Gruden

Chargers QB Philip Rivers and Raiders head coach Jon Gruden – Photo by: Getty Images

“You’re just sitting there waiting to see is there someone available? … Is he a better option?” Arians told the Tampa Bay Times after a recent coaching clinic last week when he addressed the Bucs’ stance at the quarterback position. “And then, that’s the problem, you get about three days to decide – the legal tampering period. Is somebody going to get let go? What’s the trade values? It’s really monotonous right now because you don’t have any answers.”

What makes it difficult for teams like Tampa Bay that want to explore all of the available options before truly deciding what to do with Winston, is that while the team waits to see who is available during the legal tampering period, Winston may be exploring his options, too.

What if Brady opts for Las Vegas, Rivers signs with Indianapolis, Tannehill stays in Tennessee, Prescott stays in Dallas, Bridgewater goes to Los Angles, New England wants to pursue Winston to replace Brady, and the Raiders trade Carr to another team? Then the Bucs could lose the game of QB musical chairs and be left without a quality starter.

Then Tampa Bay would be forced to trade up and draft a quarterback, which would not be ideal for a team that is trying to get over the hump and back into the playoffs in 2020 after a 12-year drought.

So how do the Bucs avoid the scenario of possibly losing Winston – whether he’s at their top of the QB wish list or a backup plan – while not giving into Winston’s demands over the fear of losing him, and still being able to explore other options in free agency?

What Tampa Bay could do is apply the franchise tag – or even the transition tag – to Winston on March 10, which is the deadline for teams to use the tag, and then still talk to other quarterbacks to see if there is interest from a supposed better option. The reason why the Bucs could in essence double dip at the quarterback spot is because Tampa Bay could rescind Winston’s franchise or transition tag at any time – as long as Winston doesn’t signed the offer.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The franchise tag would be close to $27 million, and represent over a $6 million raise for Winston, who made $20.92 million in 2019. The transition tag would be a few million dollars cheaper. So if he were to sign the franchise or transition tag contract before the start of free agency, Winston would be committing to the Bucs on a one-year deal, which is not what he nor his camp are looking for. They want a long-term deal.

And the Bucs would love to have Winston – or another quarterback – for a lesser cap number in 2020, considering all of the team’s own free agents Tampa Bay is looking to re-sign – unless it was Brady, who would command $30 million or more. The Bucs wouldn’t mind paying Brady that much because his arrival would instantly sell out Raymond James Stadium and bring the national media attention that the Glazers crave.

So the Bucs could roll the dice by using the franchise or transition tag on Winston, temporarily keeping him off the free agent market and hoping he wouldn’t sign it right away. If he’s their best option, the Bucs halt their inquiry in to other quarterbacks and would then have some time to negotiate a longer deal with Winston’s camp this offseason. If Tampa Bay found what it believed to be an upgrade over Winston, they could pursue that quarterback and then rescind Winston’s tag.

That might not be what Winston’s camp wants to hear, but the Bucs have this option and the obligation to do what is best for the team – not for one particular player like Winston.

Bucs GM Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians

Bucs GM Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Finding the right free agent fit at quarterback is essential. Just ask Houston, who signed quarterback Blake Osweiler away from Denver to a four-year, $72-million contract right out of the gate in free agency in 2016 without ever meeting him. Osweiler wasn’t a good fit for the Texans organization or Houston’s offense. He threw a franchise-record 16 interceptions and was traded to Cleveland the next year while Houston had to eat a lot of dead cap space.

I would imagine Licht, Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich would want to meet with Rivers to see how much passion for the game he has left, or meet with Tannehill or Bridgewater to see if he would be the right fit for Arians’ system. Those meetings can’t take place until March 18, which could delay some of the QB signings as the game of musical chairs begins.

If Winston isn’t feeling the love from the Bucs and doesn’t feel like he’s No. 1 on their list, and Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels come calling if Brady leaves New England, Winston might want out of Tampa Bay. Taking a chance and using the franchise or transition tag on Winston would be the only way for the Bucs to ensure they aren’t left without a quality quarterback when the music stops.

But using the franchise or transition tag on Winston won’t necessarily stop Tampa Bay from entertaining the thought of pursuing another QB and then rescinding it if a better option presents itself.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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SufferingSince76
1 year ago

Honest question. Where is this Winston to the Patriots stuff coming from? And why would they want to go from an almost guaranteed playoff appearance with Brady to a possible playoff appearance with Winston. I think Brady is pulling everyone’s leg on the FA thing.

Alldaway 2.0
Reply to  SufferingSince76
1 year ago

The Patriots had a nasty defense and special teams unit last year despite turning over their 2018 super bowl roster.

I don’t see the Patriots in the Winston sweepstakes because they are building their team differently whether Brady comes in or not.

But I do think the Bucs should try to emulate the Patriots model of team building as it proved that they could generate wins last year.

Arians wants to re-sign the defensive core and that is probably the Bucs top priority.

BigSombrero
Reply to  Alldaway 2.0
1 year ago

Earlier today NBC Sports Mike Florio and Big Cat weighed in on Brady or Dak signing first and Winston vs Rivers in Tampa.

They also discuss the NFL schedule with 2 bye weeks and the 17 game schedule. Really good stuff. Make of it what you will…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m2N0mIfoVY

Captain Sly
Reply to  SufferingSince76
1 year ago

It’s Probably the Winston Camp trying to create a market for Winston outside of Tampa…
I moved on from Winston the minute he started throwing interceptions at the start of Games. I suspect Arians and Licht have as well.

Alldaway 2.0
Reply to  Captain Sly
1 year ago

I think when the Bucs were 7-7 it looked like Winston would be back. But that two game stretch probably hurt Winston’s stock. Even without his primary WRs and injury he may have been better off not playing. But the Bucs were still in the playoff hunt and a shot of finishing better than .500. Now, I think Arians has decided to go in a different direction 2020 or move toward building the team for 2021 even if Winston is tagged for 2020 but not guaranteed to return for 2021. I think life after Winston for the Bucs is now… Read more »

surferdudes
1 year ago

Scott, over all a good Fab 5, but sometimes you say things that amaze me. Like Belichick pursuing Jameis if they lose Brady. Talk about a bad fit. N.E. relies on a quick passing game. Throwing the ball accurately on quick timing throws. That’s not J.W., just like he’s a bad fit for a west coast offense. Besides, do you really think Belichick wants to go from the GOAT, to a JACKASS? I would not be opposed to going after Ty Hill to be our starting QB. That would be a good way to make sure he doesn’t become more… Read more »

Alldaway 2.0
1 year ago

My belief is Arians would prefer a vet like Conklin which means the Bucs can use a top draft pick at another position (eg pass rusher).

Bucs have cap space to sign Conklin, and re-sign most of the defensive core.

FLBoy84
Reply to  Alldaway 2.0
1 year ago

Agree having a quality OL should always be a priority, but signing Conklin would mean having just those top 5 guys on that line taking up almost $50M of the Bucs salary cap. And that’s without accounting for their backup’s contract $$. That’s not a wise allocation of the $200M total we have to spend on 51 guys overall. PFF’s #1 ranked OL was Philly last year, and combined they only made about $31M.

Alldaway 2.0
Reply to  FLBoy84
1 year ago

That just means the Bucs need to focus on drafting cheap defensive players on rookie contracts while using Suh and JPP as bridge players.

It can be done and there is no rule that states it shouldn’t be done. Plus, D. smith and Jensen aren’t guaranteed to be back in 2021. So having Conklin in the fold makes 2021 decisions easier.

Captain Sly
1 year ago

First of all offering a guy a contract with the intent of rescinding the offer is called “dealing in bad faith”. Licht nor the Bucs organization will ever do that because it’s a Bad Label. Second you keep making your argument of keeping Winston on the false premise that there won’t be any other QB’s available to replace him. That to me is not negotiating from a position of Strength but a position of Fear. The best way to find out what’s Winston’s value is to let the Market determine it…. Third I can promise you that Bruce Arians is… Read more »

Greattimes
1 year ago

First of all the writer of this story left out the most important part of quotes from HC Arians. Arians stated that the Bucs were not going to make a decision about Winston until the legal tampering period. That is after the tagging period has expired. So if anybody can read between the lines, if Arians is true to his words, then the Bucs are not going to tag Winston. Why did the writer of this story leave out the statement from Arians that the Bucs were going to wait until the legal tampering period to make a decision on… Read more »

FLBoy84
Reply to  Badtimes
1 year ago

Believe most of us have misspoke a time or two in our lives. And holding a coach to what he says word-for-word regarding a player is a futile endeavor. Tagging Winston by no means guarantees he’s still a Buc on opening day. It simply protects the Bucs and provides leverage in negotiations with other QB’s if the Bucs so desire to look for a replacement. Seattle tagged Frank Clark just last year, but ended up trading him to KC for a 1st, saved $17M in cap space and signed Ziggy Ansah. The player is still getting paid regardless of where… Read more »

Dman
1 year ago

I spent time in Boston last summer and fall. Pats fans loved Stidham. Not sure why he’s never mentioned. Any New England transplants around that can weigh in?

Alldaway 2.0
Reply to  Dman
1 year ago

Stidham is very much like Jimmy G. They love him up there and maybe BB sees value in rolling the dice with a player on a rookie contract while building up the rest of the team.

With $30 mil cap space freed up from moving from Brady they can improve their OL and augment the defense further.

Horse
1 year ago

Scott,
Haven’t we been in the same situation with Winston the last 2 years? Am I to believe the GM and Head Coach haven’t made their mind up yet as to what to do with Winston?

Question for the fans. Can you name one quarterback after their first 5 years of starting and not making it to the playoffs, makes it in their 6th year-of to the playoffs?
I’m asking because I can’t think of any right now.

LVBUC2
1 year ago

Scott you are looking at it in the wrong perspective. You are looking at what team is going to be without a QB. It is going to be the other way around. Which QB is going to be without a starting job. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities Winston or one of the other QB will be a back-up this season.

FLBoy84
Reply to  LVBUC2
1 year ago

Hard to see Winston not being given the chance to at least compete for a starting gig if he ends up elsewhere, but almost certain there are going to be a couple QB’s having to take less than they like to get signed this off-season. Guys like Dalton (if he’s released), Mariota, and Keenum come to mind.

drdneast
1 year ago

I remember all of the hysterical crying by the hayseed sportswriters that cover the Bucs back when Gruden was trying to trade for Farve. Calling Gruden a traitor to Garcia just because he coveted a future Hall of Fame QB. Shame on him for wanting to better the team with a better player. With that in mind we should have kept the heartless self centered McCoy just because he played here for 9 years and never gave a defensive unit he was captain of the type of fierce winning attitude the unit so badly needed. And although I love Demar… Read more »

Captain Sly
Reply to  drdneast
1 year ago

The QB has Way More Control than what you think!!

He is the only player that touches the ball every play. He tells the defense when they can rush. He dictates the tempo by using the play clock. He manipulates the coverages using audible, play action or RPO. I am old enough to remember when the QB used to punt the football…
So to suggest that the QB is not responsible for the Bucs losing over the last decade is shortsighted to say the least….
Winston has had his opportunity so let’s quit with the excuses please!

BUC-ASS-BOB
1 year ago

Winston is worth 9 million as back up period ……………………………………………..

LIBucsFan93
1 year ago

This article sounds a lot like my What If post on the Red Board. Thanks for expounding on it Scott. Roll the Dice Jason. Plenty of options at QB.

a-bomb
1 year ago

Dan Graziano pointed out something of interest to this analysis. The old CBA says that in the last year of that deal the Franchise and Transition tags can both be used. But, if the new CBA is approved, this would be the first year of the new deal and they could not both be used. There is a conference call today amongst player reps and they could vote on the CBA (if 2/3 approve it would then go to the players for a vote). If the new CBA is approved, then this could be difficult for the Bucs because they… Read more »

Captain Sly
Reply to  a-bomb
1 year ago

Sorry but that is not True!
They can’t go back and change the old CBA which expires in March 2020. They are voting on a new CBA which will begin on March 17th. The old agreement that was signed in 2011 allows for teams in this Last Year to use both the Franchise and Transition Tag.

FLBoy84
Reply to  Captain Sly
1 year ago

Know you’re referring to “Article 10 of the CBA stipulates that, in the Final League Year, teams are allowed to designate one franchise player and one transition player”, however that only applies if no new CBA is negotiated by the start of the league year. In other words, if the 32-man NFLPA board votes to rec’d the newest CBA proposal from the owners today, it will result in this year being under Final League Year rules. If they do Rec’d it, and as long as the players vote to accept it, it’s NOT a Final League Year. It’s still an… Read more »

FLBoy84
Reply to  FLBoy84
1 year ago

Sorry, meant to say “if the 32-man NFLPA board DOESN’T vote to rec’d the newest CBA proposal from the owners today, it will result in this year being under Final League Year rules.”

BigSombrero
1 year ago

Wait. Why is Conklin not affordable? The cash: Bucs spent $38.5 million on the OL last year. While that was the 10th highest, it was only $4 million more than league average of $34.5 million. Oakland spent the most at about $68 million. Dotson($5.5m), Wells($1m), Warford($1m) may cost a combined $7m. Conklin is expected to command $10 million. So the Bucs can bring in Conklin and draft 2 linemen for an additional $3 million than they spent last year. That would be worth it to me. No offense to Dotson. Conklin is 26. I really like the idea of the… Read more »

Alldaway 2.0
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

Bucs can definitely sign Conklin.

I would not be surprised if the Bucs sign Conklin, try to re-sign Perriman or another vet WR with speed, and a vet RB.

BigSombrero
Reply to  Alldaway 2.0
1 year ago

Which veteran running back are you thinking? Those guys have a short shelf life before the injuries start piling up. David Johnson is pricey and hasn’t played. Kareem Hunt may be a bargain after his latest arrest.

Alldaway 2.0
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

Bucs should go for a low cost vet in FA. Theo Riddick, Bilal Powell, I. Crowell, DeAndre Washington, Spencer Ware, etc.

Hunt would be good and more cost effective than Gordon while being more durable.

Bucs have RoJo, Logan, and Ogunwale under contract if I remember right. Just need to add another RB to the mix.

BucRy
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

I’m definitely on board with bringing Conklin in to replace Dotson. That one move could change our whole outlook of the draft. I am guessing that we will most likely lose either JPP, Nassib, or Suh in free agency this year so we could then use a draft pick to replace one of them with our top pick.

Alldaway 2.0
1 year ago

The Bucs may choose to keep building the defense with cheap rookie contract while re-signing vets like Suh, and JPP to guide the way. Shaq can be a cornerstone piece of this new movement so re-signing him is top priority. I would not be surprised if the Bucs first three picks are all on defense once more. Last year the first FOUR picks went on defense. IF it was not for the selection of Gay then it may have been even five straight selections on defense. It is clear that Arians prefers vets on offense and Bowles will probably receive… Read more »

BigSombrero
1 year ago

Double Shaq Attack!!

By moving on from JPP, who Jon Ledyard recently recommended how good JPP is at RDE and ROLB, the Bucs can get a younger player who will also do well in Bowles 3-4 defense.

Shaq Lawson is expected to command $7 million on the open market. That is a $2-3 million dollar savings over JPP.

I really like JPP, don’t get me wrong. Shaq Lawson is pretty damn good too. I loved the prospect of the Bucs drafting him the year he came out.

Alldaway 2.0
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

Yup lots of opportunities for the Bucs to improve the team via free agency. Bucs just have to be smart.

magoobee
1 year ago

Only Buc fans think Winston has value. I have seen several mock QB predictions that do not even have Winston as a starter next season. No team is going to commit long term to a turnover machine.

Take any scenario you like. There will be 3-5 QBs left with no starting jobs. Simple supply & demand. If they want an opportunity to start, the last team to sign a QB will have the most leverage. They will probably get 2 for the price of 1 just for an opportunity to prove they are a starting QB.

bucballer
1 year ago

It’s really all just speculation at this point. Smart money is on Bucs resigning Jameis… despite the heavy sighs of the fans.

bucballer
1 year ago

What happens to everyone’s avatar?

stlbucsfan
1 year ago

Winston or Carr. I’ve said for seasons that I think Carr would be a more stable option at QB that could thrive with our passing weapons. Not out on Jameis considering the alternative but we have to get real and realize an explosive passing game hasn’t yield playoff birth over the last 2 seasons and find balance. Signing Conklin should be priority number 1. Licht has paid plenty of worse OL major money so hopefully he finally gets it right this time. Stop paying ppl top dollar for the hope they make the jump and actually pay somebody worth the… Read more »

BUC-ASS-BOB
1 year ago

There is 15 Bucs fans that want keep Winston, and 10 of those 15 are on this site, then there is real world where nobody wants him and 31 teams would not touch him 10’ pole. This year at owners meeting the other owners will see Glazzers And sneaker at them behind there back for Giving Winston 21 million to throw 30 INTs.

BigSombrero
Reply to  BUC-ASS-BOB
1 year ago

Jameis Winston Derangement Syndrome.

chefboho
Reply to  BigSombrero
1 year ago

It’s obviously a disease that bob suffers from. I wish him a speedy recovery.

Horse
1 year ago

Still nobody can give me an answer as to whether or not there are any 1st round quarterbacks who started their first five years who didn’t make the playoffs make the playoffs in their 6th year?

seat26
Reply to  Horse
1 year ago

Vinny played 6 or 7 years in Tampa. I don’t think he went to the playoffs while in Tampa and he was chosen overall first in the Draft just like Winston.

awwdembucs
1 year ago

We will know something by March 18.

seat26
1 year ago

I have been a Bucs Fan since 76. I was there when they drafted Lee Roy Selmon. I was there when they drafted Ricky Bell and Doug Willams. and when they traded for Jack Thompson. I was there when they drafted Bo Jackson and Vinnie Testaverde. I was there when the drafted Shaun King and when they drafted Dilfer. I was there when they drafted Freeman and Winston. They hit on some of them missed on others and had some misfortune along the way. But as much as it pains me, I think we have to keep Winston at least… Read more »

scubog
1 year ago

Me too Seat! I’ve seen every one of the blunders (drafts, trades, F/A signings) searching for that elusive “franchise QB”. Regardless of what some think, Jameis Winston, in spite of his flaws, is the closest one to achieving that moniker. I for one, will be happy just to have the QB situation settled and see who is left standing behind Ryan Jensen when the music stops. After all is said and done it’s likely to be our familiar #3. I suspect the Bucs will initially use the transition tag to at least retain the rights to Winston for one more… Read more »

Horse
Reply to  scubog
1 year ago

Scubgo, I agree with yours and Seats 26 opinions; I’m just having problems having to pay him so much money and we could use that money elsewhere in building this team, but I will accept it if we bring him back. We seem to have poor timing with quarterbacks throughout our history. It’s a reason why I keep asking a question, will Winston be that 6th year starting quarterback that finally makes it to the playoffs?

BigSombrero
1 year ago

Rumor has it that Derek Carr is being traded to Chicago to compete with Mitchell Trubisky as a backup.

hahahahahahahahahahahahaha

GrayBalls
1 year ago

Just throwing this out for the number of you that keep saying Tyson Hill, his name is TAYSOM. I don’t really care that much, but it makes you seem uninformed and it’s really hard to take your comments seriously. Thanks

Mb Nfl Lock Of The Szn Pewter 728x90 Jpg