It’s been a tumultuous past few days for the Buccaneers organization, as they now know that they will be without QB Jameis Winston for the first three games of the year for his NFL suspension.
There has been a lot of speculation as to what the franchise will do in the short and long term.
Here are their options:
Cut Winston now
If the Glazers, who own the team, choose to make a statement to their organization, the fans and the NFL in general, one would think it will come quickly.
First, the financial hit is not that significant, as Winston is scheduled to make $3.8 million in actual salary and the “dead cap” hit from the remainder of his signing bonus being applied is $4.9 million.
So, it’s not as if there are large ramifications ($10-15 million) for his release.
If you are wondering if the Glazers have done something like this before? The answer is yes.
In 2013, they allowed coach Greg Schiano to not only bench but outright release QB Josh Freeman during the season, while they still owed him $6 million guaranteed for remainder of the season.
Allow Winston to come back to play after the suspension
This is most likely the short term plan. Yes, Winston will be a distraction during training camp and the preseason, but ultimately the Bucs best chance to win 7, 8 or more games is with Winston at the controls.
And if the Glazers have to pay Winston the actual $3.8 million in salary, the strong argument is have him “play for it” or earn the money.
The risk is that the Bucs could be on the hook for the fifth year guarantee of his rookie contract. If Winston were to be injured, and unable to pass a physical in March, the Bucs would have no choice, because his $20.9 million option year would then be guaranteed.
Release Winston after the season before the March deadline to guarantee his 2019 salary
This scenario also makes sense for the owners, especially if Winston plays poorly after the suspension. At that point, no one would fault them for not wanting to guarantee the almost $21 million for 2019.
Further, if they have decided now, that they won’t be paying Winston a mega deal in the future, then he’s living on “borrowed time” for 2018. To that end, if the Bucs season is bad and Winston is not playing well, there very easily could bench him to avoid the injury guaranteeing his deal (the Redskins did this with RGIII a couple of years ago).
Play Winston-he succeeds, puts the past behind him and gets long term deal later
This is obviously the biggest “long shot” of all the scenarios, but it’s still possible that Winston could play well, or even exceptionally well. And if he’s not injured, then the Bucs could take the almost $21 million risk for 2019 and work towards a long term deal.
Again, the Glazers with GM Jason Licht have short and long term options.
And, if they are deleting Winston, you have to think that happens, shortly.
Otherwise, it’s one of the other options above.
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