Jameis Winston free agency 2020: Top landing spots, projected contract, latest updates, rumors and more

It feels like just yesterday that Jameis Winston was entering the NFL as the No. 1 overall pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but somehow, five years have already come and gone. So, for the first time in his career, Winston is heading into free agency. 

It probably feels like not much time has passed since 2015 because not much has really changed. Winston entered the NFL as a quarterback with all the physical tools necessary to emerge as one of the league’s best, but with a reputation for questionable decision making. Five years later, that remains true. Winston’s first ever pass in the NFL resulted in a pick-six. The final pass of his 2019 season also resulted in a pick-six, which capped the first 30-touchdown, 30-interception season in NFL history. Five years later, he’s still the same type of quarterback he was when he entered the league. 

Winston is now heading into free agency as the biggest boom-or-bust quarterback in football. But some team (probably more than one) will be convinced that they can be the one to eliminate the interceptions from his repertoire. They’ll look at his physical set of skills and his age (26) and tell themselves that they can fix him. In that sense, it’s like the lead up to the 2015 NFL Draft all over again — even down to the fact that Marcus Mariota, who went one pick after Winston in 2015, will also be hitting free agency.

With all that in mind, we decided to create a one-stop destination for everything you need to know about Winston’s first trip to free agency. Scroll down below to check out the best landing spots for Winston, his projected market value, a scouting report, and the latest news and rumors. 

We begin with potential destinations.

Top free agent landing spots for Winston

If the Buccaneers decline to use the franchise tag on Winston — a real possibility — Winston will have suitors despite his inherently flawed approach to playing quarterback. It’s not everyday a former No. 1 overall pick with a cannon for an arm hits free agency at the age of 26. Someone is likely to take a chance on him.

Still, it seems like the Buccaneers are the team most likely to sign Winston, whether it’s via the tag or a multi-year contract. But if the Buccaneers do decide to move in a different direction — there are a bevy of free agent quarterbacks this offseason, so they’ll have options — there’s a long list of teams that could make sense as landing spots.

The Raiders have Derek Carr under contract through the 2022 season, but they can cut him this offseason and save almost $14 million in cap space. If Jon Gruden is ready to move on from Carr, he’d likely at least discuss bringing in Winston, especially if the Raiders were to miss out on some of the bigger names, like Tom Brady and Philip Rivers. 

The Colts don’t really have a long-term starting quarterback on their roster — Jacoby Brissett is better suited for a backup role — so they should be interested in any starting-caliber quarterback who hits free agency. Plus, the Colts have loads of cap space, so they can spend freely. If they were to get into a bidding war for Winston, they’d be able to win it. 

Meanwhile, the Chargers have parted ways with Philip Rivers, so they’re in the quarterback market for the first time in over a decade. You get the sense they want a bigger name to sell tickets in Los Angeles, but every team can’t sign Tom Brady.

Likewise, the Bears do not have a starting-caliber quarterback on their roster. GM Ryan Pace needs to bring in competition for Mitchell Trubisky. He can’t afford to squander the Super Bowl-caliber defense he’s assembled. I think the Bears would be better off pursuing a quarterback who doesn’t turn the ball over as much as Winston — Andy Dalton and Teddy Bridgewater would both be great fits — but beggars can’t be choosers. The Bears need someone better than Trubisky at quarterback, and Winston is better.

The Panthers deserve a mention, but there’s always the chance they’ll hang onto Cam Newton, provided he’s healthy enough to play. If they decide to move him, all options will be in play. As for the Patriots, I still think they’ll retain Brady, but if Brady were to leave, I could see Bill Belichick talking himself into taking on Winston and hoping the Patriots’ system can cure his turnover woes. Finally, while the Titans appear to be likely to bring back Ryan Tannehill, if they were to let Tannehill depart in free agency, they’d have a clear and urgent need at quarterback as they look to build off their deep playoff run.

Again, there are a ton of teams that should be in the mix for Winston if Tampa Bay doesn’t tag him. In the end, we narrowed the list down to eight:

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  2. Las Vegas Raiders
  3. Indianapolis Colts
  4. Los Angeles Chargers
  5. Chicago Bears
  6. Carolina Panthers
  7. New England Patriots
  8. Tennessee Titans

Projected market value for Winston in free agency

According to Spotrac, Winston’s market value resides at four years and $107.2 million for an average annual salary of $26.8 million — basically, Matthew Stafford kind of money. That might seem like an overpay for a quarterback as flawed as Winston, but again, he’s 26 years old and still oozes potential. If he hits free agency, he’ll get paid. 

Scouting report on Winston



  • Decision making is his biggest issue. Speaking of that big arm, it often gets him in trouble. He creates a ton of big plays, but he also turns the ball over way too much by forcing it into traffic. He just threw 30 interceptions, seven of which were pick-sixes. Since he entered the league, he leads the NFL in interceptions with 88. The next closest player, Philip Rivers, has thrown 76 in that span. He’s the most interception-prone quarterback in the league by a wide margin.
  • He’s not secure with the football either. Winston fumbled 12 times this past season. His 50 fumbles since 2015 ranks first among quarterbacks — tied with Kirk Cousins atop the table. In short, nobody turns the ball over more than Winston. It’s difficult to win in the NFL with a quarterback who gives the ball away as often as Winston does.
  • His accuracy can, at times, be erratic. In 2019, he posted a completion percentage above expectation of negative-0.1, which ranked in the middle of the pack, right in between Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones, per Next Gen Stats. His interceptions aren’t always about decision making. Sometimes they’re about poorly placed throws.

Bucs could keep Winston on a two-year deal 

Feb. 20: ESPN’s Jenna Laine reported that the Buccaneers have considered giving Winston a two-year deal, with the second year being a team option.  

As also noted above, the Buccaneers could hit Winston with the transition tag, which is cheaper than the franchise tag and would give them a chance to match any offer that Winston garners from another team.

Bruce Arians refuses to commit to Winston

Feb. 13: The Buccaneers coach never minces words, so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to hear that he recently refused to commit to Winston as his quarterback of the future. Arians knows there are a ton of moving pieces this offseason, so he wants to wait and watch the market before he makes a decision on Winston.

“No, because you don’t know who’s available,” Arians told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “You’re just sitting and waiting to see, is there someone available? And is he a better option? 

“That’s the problem. You get about three days to decide — the legal tampering (period). Is somebody else going to get let go? What’s the trade values? It’s really monotonous right now because you don’t really have any answers.”

Winston fixes vision problem

Feb. 12: Winston recently underwent LASIK surgery to fix his eyesight.

Our Jordan Dajani explains:

According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Winston underwent LASIK surgery this month to repair his eyesight. Winston has apparently been nearsighted since college, and head coach Bruce Arians even commented on it during the final press conference of 2019.

“He can’t read the scoreboard but he can see the guys in front of him,” Arians said. “So he’s alright.”

We’ll have to wait and see if that helps Winston avoid throwing the ball to the other team.

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