The 2020 free agent market has been picked over. Players like Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and Marcus Mariota all modified areas. Teams in want of veteran quarterback assist have, for the most half, both discovered their new starters or made their intentions clear about turning to the draft for assist.
But there’s one man on the market who might nonetheless be the answer to some group’s issues. Or presumably the catalyst that blows all the things up.
Jameis Winston cast an uneven path by way of his five-year NFL profession. He’s proven the chops to will his group to comeback victories in wildfire shootouts, or blow a gap in his personal boat with terrible choices. Winston has lengthy persevered as the NFL’s Hellraiser puzzle field. If you possibly can determine tips on how to unlock him, you’re in for a world of pleasure. As he confirmed the Buccaneers time and time once more, these pleasures are principally reserved for sadists.
Over the course of 72 NFL video games, Winston has thrown 88 interceptions and fumbled 50 occasions. He’s received greater than seven video games as a starter solely as soon as in 5 seasons. He’s by no means been to the playoffs.
He’s additionally the identical quarterback who’s thrown for no less than three touchdowns in greater than 21 % of his begins (15 of 70). He’s recorded a single-game passer score of 103 or higher 27 occasions. He led the Buccaneers to 11 game-winning drives since 2015 — greater than Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, or Ben Roethlisberger in the identical span.
That’s a number of variance! So what can the NFL count on from a player who wears his flaws on the exterior however should still have potential but as a franchise quarterback?
The case for: Jameis Winston, high-impact passer in a selection offense
There’s a cause Winston was the prime decide in 2015 and why Tampa determined to roll with him slightly than re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick following the 2018 season. At his finest, Winston is a fearless passer able to becoming the ball into tight home windows due to one in all the league’s strongest arms. He’s completed both first or second in common throw distance in 4 of his 5 seasons. Despite this elevated diploma of issue, he’s nonetheless accomplished greater than 61 % of his passes.
While his 2019 was extra notable for his unique entry into the 30-touchdown, 30-interception membership, he additionally threw extra deep passes (20+) yards than anybody in the league and accomplished greater than 37 % of them (38 of 102). Aaron Rodgers, who completed second in that class, accomplished solely 28 of his 88 deep balls (31.Eight %).
Sure, Winston’s prowess was helped by the receiving tandem of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. He was additionally hampered by Tampa’s abject lack of a operating recreation, which meant Evans, Godwin, and everybody else had been caught operating by way of a crowded secondary that didn’t have to fret about the Buccaneers’ run recreation.
There’s a number of worth in a quarterback able to throwing deep towards defenses who count on it, particularly in a league that traits extra towards college-style unfold offenses every year. If you’re searching for a player who can stretch defenses vertically at an almost-reckless fee (extra on that later), you possibly can do a lot worse than Winston — he’s centered on creating large performs.
He’s additionally sturdy close to the purpose line. His interception fee inside the crimson zone was a scant 1.four % and helped contribute to a 99.zero passer score inside an opponent’s 20-yard line. He had a 76.zero passer score and a 5.2 % INT fee anyplace else on the subject.
There’s even a silver lining to his current struggles as effectively. A quarterback solely will get to 30 interceptions if he’s bought a sure inexperienced gentle from his head coach. Winston completely bought that from Bruce Arians; in 2019, he threw for an NFL-high 5,109 yards whereas averaging 8.2 yards per try. There was sufficient in his play that satisfied Arians to simply accept the unhealthy as a bundle take care of his good.
Those are spectacular numbers in a vacuum. That’s what makes Winston an intriguing high-risk quarterback. But it’s been not possible to separate Winston from his defects.
The case for: Jameis Winston, annual NFL interception chief
We know all about the turnovers at this level. Some might be defined.
There are a number of situations the place Winston’s interception points aren’t his fault. Maybe he’s the sufferer of a tip-drill decide. Maybe he throws up a desperation heave downfield on third-and-long whereas trailing late in a recreation. Maybe O.J. Howard drops a pass so thoroughly all a linebacker has to do is scoop it off the tight end’s back.
These moments are all comprehensible … they usually’re a minority amongst Winston’s lowlight reel.
The cantilever to his penchant for large performs is a single-track thoughts that at all times defaults again to a goal he had settled on already. There are occasions when Winston drops again in a clear pocket, stares down one wideout for 3 seconds, then throws into double-coverage anyway.
Sometimes his mind and arm don’t fairly align and he throws the ball on to a player sporting the fallacious jersey. Behold, a rookie mistake from a fifth-year quarterback:
A little strain can pressure Winston into unhealthy choices, however he makes the appropriate learn in interception to Richard Sherman above. He simply flubs this cross so badly an out-of-position Sherman barely has to maneuver to carry residence a simple landing. And, someway, it wasn’t even the most cringe-inducing pick-six of that recreation:
What’s worse is what number of of those miscues had been so instantly damaging. While he was stable in the crimson zone, his decision-making broke down deep in his personal territory. Seven of Winston’s 2019 interceptions had been pick-sixes. Five of these had been returned solely 32 yards or fewer to the finish zone.
This is what you join once you lock into the Jameis Winston expertise. His confidence in his arm offers him the freedom to make monster throws, but it surely additionally will get him into bother.
There’s no official stat for it, however I’m certain no player in the league throws extra passes off his again foot in hopes of muscling a ball into tight home windows than Winston. Even when he seems to know the protection he’s going through decides “f—- it” and launches the ball anyway.
These are all correctable errors, however 5 years and three head coaches couldn’t repair them in Tampa. The Buccaneers hoped pairing Winston with a head coach recognized for reviving veteran quarterbacks would assist him understand his potential. Arians did that — it’s simply that Winston’s potential was as the NFL’s first-ever 30-30 season.
The case for: why not each?
Winston is a giant mess of a quarterback, and we haven’t even gotten into his off-field points (of which there are numerous). At his peak, he’s capable of transfer the ball downfield with an explosiveness few quarterbacks can match. In his valleys, he’s a mistake-prone pick-six machine who tries to do an excessive amount of and winds up digging his personal grace. There’s worth in him as a result of he’s a dynamic deep-range quarterback, however he sabotages his personal play by throwing deep too usually and in unhealthy conditions.
Would a lesser receiving corps pressure him out of his unhealthy habits as a result of he is aware of he can’t blindly belief they’ll bail him out? Maybe — but when a 30-interception season wasn’t the wake-up name he wanted to make changes and alter his method, there’s an opportunity nothing is.
Still, the most doubtless situation is that Winston stays a quarterback who lives on the extremes. Winston’s comfortable place would pair him with a top-flight receiving corps and an offensive line proficient sufficient to resist blitzes and maintain him from panicking in the pocket. Get him that and buttress him with an overachieving protection, and he might exceed the normal set in Tampa.