Do you remember where you were on April 30th, 2015? Most of us probably wouldn’t be able to recall, unless you’re a die-hard Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan.
That was the day when the Buccaneers used the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft on Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
The Buccaneers had finished the previous season 2-14 and were throwing in the towel on QB's Mike Glennon and Josh McCown. They were badly in need of a fresh start.
Enter Jameis Winston, who had a remarkable redshirt freshman season at Florida State in which he won the Heisman Trophy and led the Seminoles to a national championship. His sophomore year wasn't as spectacular, but still good enough to convince the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that Jameis Winston was their man in the 2015 draft.
Jameis Winston didn't work as Tampa Bay's franchise QB
Jameis Winston's knack for turning the ball over that he developed in college, while somewhat masked by prolific yardage and passing touchdown figures, never really went away during his five seasons in Tampa Bay.
His career-low interception total for a season is 11, back in 2017, but he only played 13 games that year. The former No. 1 overall pick had 14 interceptions in 2018, while only playing in nine games. Of course Jameis Winston saved his best for last, throwing a whopping 30 picks in the 2019 season.
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to cut ties with their former franchise quarterback, Jameis Winston hit the free agent market this past offseason. He signed with the New Orleans Saints for one year to be a backup to future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees.
It could be a matter of if, and not when, Jameis Winston will get another chance to lead a team.
Which teams could Jameis Winston potentially start for next season?
New England Patriots
While the early-season love affair between QB Cam Newton and head coach Bill Belichick was pleasant to watch, it has not resulted in the same level of success the Foxboro faithful are used to having in the last two decades. Unless Newton can pick his play up in a hurry, it seems likely that the Patriots will be in the hunt for another new signal caller for the 2021 season.
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What has become abundantly clear to everyone, including Belichick, is that the roster needs an infusion of talent around the QB. Tom Brady couldn’t work miracles with the lack of receiving talent last year, and Newton is having a tough time moving the ball down the field now.
If the front office commits (and executes) on supplying the offensive side of the ball with ample playmakers, then Jameis Winston could be a good fit in New England—but this seems like a longshot at best.
New York Jets
It’s anyone’s guess as to how the New York Jets will look in a week, in a month, or in the upcoming offseason. Will QB Sam Darnold still be on the team? Will head coach Adam Gase have been run out of town by the new year?
While it’s easy to question the Jets’ execution and direction over the past few seasons, it also lends itself to the notion that they might do something unforeseen with regards to overhauling their team before the start of the 2021 season. There’s no doubt they’ll have one of the top picks in the draft, but will they feel inclined to take another young QB after recently having committed to Darnold in the 2018 draft?
It would not be surprising if the team decided that they wanted a little bit more experience at the position, and took a flyer on Jameis Winston to see if he could at least make the Jets competitive—something Darnold and veteran QB Joe Flacco have not been able to achieve in 2020.
Jameis Winston may end up being the beneficiary of another former No. 1 overall pick’s misfortune. Depending on what you read and when you read it, the Cleveland Browns and their fans seem to waffle on a near weekly basis on whether QB Baker Mayfield is truly the long term solution at the helm.
While Mayfield has been nothing spectacular to ride home about, he has been the starter during the Browns’ better than expected start to the season. However, new head coach Kevin Stefanski was not with the team with they drafted Mayfield, and may not feel the undying allegiance that many coaches have with their own high draft picks.
Stefanski has employed a running game focused attack while he was the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, and has brought that approach to Cleveland. That type of offensive philosophy would help Jameis Winston in the play action passing game, and could lead to fewer interceptions. It might be a transaction worth investigating for both sides.
This pairing is still very much in the TBD mode, depending on how current starting QB Philip Rivers finishes the season. The longtime Chargers quarterback has been decent so far for the Colts, leading them to 5-2 record so far, good enough to be in the hunt for the AFC South title.
If Rivers finishes the season strong, then it’s possible that the team brings him back on another one year deal, especially if they make a deep postseason run. But the veteran is prone to turnovers, as he’s thrown a pick in over half of the Colts’ games this season, and if that trend continues to worsen, it’s possible head coach Frank Reich looks in Jameis Winston’s direction for an upgrade.
Washington Football Team
It’s common knowledge that new head coach Ron Rivera is no staunch supporter of 2019 first round pick Dwayne Haskins, and current starting QB Kyle Allen is not much more than a competent backup.
The team has been in a perennial rebuild mode for the better part of two decades, so as tempting as it would be for Washington to select one of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 draft, owner Daniel Snyder may want to accelerate things by looking to a veteran like Jameis Winston to right the ship. Pairing Jameis Winston with Rivera could be a lot of fun, with Riverboat Ron’s penchant to take chances late in games leading to heart stopping moments.
The Bears have been “just a QB away” for a few years now, and have had the worst time trying to develop QB Mitchell Trubisky. Could Jameis Winston be that QB?
So far, Super Bowl hero QB Nick Foles has not fared much better than Trubisky, leading Chicago fans to wonder if they’ll ever be able to win anything while WR Allen Robinson, LB Khalil Mack, and S Eddie Jackson are balling in the prime of their careers.
While Jameis Winston’s disposal to throwing interceptions could potentially drive the Bears crazy, he has the ability and the arm strength to make plays that Foles nor Trubisky can make consistently. He would be a high upside risk for a Chicago team that is desperately trying to win now.
New Orleans Saints
Of course, it’s possible that Jameis Winston’s path to least resistance is right where he is currently in New Orleans. QB Drew Brees has already lined up a second career after his playing days are over, and it seems increasingly likely that he will call it quits this season regardless of how New Orleans’ season winds up.
If that scenario does play out, and Sean Payton isn’t comfortable with making gadget player extraordinaire Taysom Hill the full time starter, Jameis Winston could be in a great spot. He would have Pro Bowl RB Alvin Kamara and Pro Bowl WR Michael Thomas(assuming he stays) in their primes, which could bring about the high octane attack Saints fans have been used to seeing for many years.