The quarterback carousel is spinning and Jameis Winston still is waiting in the ticket line.
Tom Brady and Philip Rivers have new homes, Drew Brees and Ryan Tannehill are staying put, Cam Newton is looking for a landing spot after he was displaced by Teddy Bridgewater, and Winston is … ?
Five years ago, Winston and Marcus Mariota were the No. 1 and No. 2 picks, respectively, in the NFL draft. Neither quarterback lived up to expectations: Both were benched for veterans at one point.
Mariota was quick to realize Tannehill’s four-year, $118 million contract with the Tennessee Titans was a sign he needed to settle for a backup job elsewhere. He grabbed an enticing spot earlier this week with the Las Vegas Raiders, where starter Derek Carr is on shaky ground.
But Winston was caught in limbo. Returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made sense for him and for the team – if they lost out on Brady sweepstakes. With Brady likely headed there, Winston is scrambling.
What will be Winston’s market? There are few starting jobs available – and he is competing against the much more accomplished Newton – so his desired mega contract is a long shot. It looks like he will have to settle for a short-term, prove-it deal.
Here are five options:
After trading Nick Foles to the Bears, are the Jaguars prepared to go with 2019 sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew? He threw for 21 touchdowns and six interceptions in 14 games as a rock-star rookie enhanced by his trademark mustache.
Remember, Winston is only 26 years old. No reason he couldn’t be a long-term answer if he plays well enough to beat Minshew. The Jaguars are in the throes of another rebuild.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers reportedly offered around $30 million per year to Brady, but fell short.
After moving on from Rivers, their best in-house option is Tyrod Taylor. Winston would be an upgrade – potentially a massive upgrade – if he ever puts it all together.
The Chargers are the No. 2 team in the city and moving into a shared new stadium where they could have trouble selling tickets. The right move is to draft a franchise quarterback, but they could get stuck with the third or fourth option on their draft board without trading up from pick No. 6.
Winston on a one-year deal isn’t a bad plan for either party. Time for Jordan Love or Justin Herbert to learn from the bench and an opportunity for Winston to cash in as a 2021 free agent.
Very similar situation to the Chargers. He could compete with a first-round pick (expected to be Tua Tagovailoa) if the Dolphins want to create a competition of the most arm talent.
Here’s the catch: If the Dolphins prefer a mentor for Tagovailoa, just stick with returning starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Josh Rosen, a 2018 first-round pick, is an afterthought here.
New England Patriots
Starting job available! But this doesn’t sound very Patriots-like.
The Brady-less Bill Belichick will want to issue a reminder of how smart he is by trading for some team’s backup quarterback or drafting another mid- or late-round steal such as Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo or Matt Cassel. Maybe the answer is already-in-place fourth-rounder Jarrett Stidham.
Winning with a reclamation project could count as rubbing the NFL’s nose in his genius, but would a former No. 1 overall pick count as an underdog? Eh, maybe.
No one doubts Winston’s physical talent, but Belichick could be the right person to unlock the rest of the package.
A sleeper option.
The Steelers were caught playing Mason Rudolph and “Duck” Hodges last season, when Ben Roethlisberger was out most of the season with an elbow injury. Roethlisberger, 38, is returning, but in what condition and for how long? He has hinted before about retirement.
This starting job will open soon one way or another. Winston being in line for it could be the smart long-term play.