Jameis Winston’s 2019 injury guarantee looms over 2018 for the Bucs

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Most if not all NFL contracts now contain a term that results in any suspension of the player wiping out future remaining guaranteed payments. For Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, his three-game suspension allows the team to avoid nearly $4 million in 2018 compensation, if he’s cut before a roster bonus becomes earned on the fifth day of training camp.

But with $20.9 million in 2019 salary currently guaranteed for injury only, Winston doesn’t have to worry about that guarantee evaporating. By rule, teams can’t undercut via individualized negotiation the terms applicable to the fifth-year option for first-round draft picks.

So the Bucs remain on the hook for $20.9 million in 2019, if any injury to Winston in 2018 keeps him from passing a physical before the payment becomes fully guaranteed in March. Likewise, as of March, the $20.9 million becomes fully guaranteed.

If anything, the looming balloon payment could make the team more inclined to consider moving on from Winston now, since that would ensure that $25 million will remain in ownership’s coffers. A decision to give Winston one more season to justify the fifth-year option or a long-term deal could blow up on the Bucs, especially if there’s an ACL tear or other serious injury in training camp, the preseason, or the regular season.

Regardless of whether the Buccaneers are willing to take a stand on principle when it comes to Winston’s transgressions with an Uber driver in March 2016, these business realities could push the needle toward making a decision that could be sold as doing “the right thing,” even if the driving force becomes doing the smart thing financially.

Then there’s a potential middle ground. The Buccaneers could extend Winston’s contract in a way that wipes out the injury guarantee for 2019, replacing it with (for example) a large roster bonus due on the third day of the next league year. This would ensure that Winston either will get the money or head to market early in free agency, and it would protect the Bucs against the worst-case scenario of a fluke training-camp injury costing them $25 million.

Why would Winston agree to give up his injury guarantee? If the “or else” consists of the Buccaneers cutting him, Winston would be thrust onto the market at a time when every other team is set at quarterback. Given his suspension and the potential P.R. fallout for any team that would sign him, Winston’s best play possibly would be to accept whatever alternative offer the Bucs put on the table, since it will likely be better than anything else another team would offer — and since the Bucs would be the only team offering a clear path to return as the starter after the suspension concludes.

In their 42-year history, the Buccaneers have never signed a quarterback the team drafted to a second contract. This would be an unusual way to make history, but it could be the kind of win-win that gives Winston a fair deal, that fairly protects the organization, and that potentially helps keep employed the G.M. who picked Winston over Marcus Mariota.

12 responses to “Jameis Winston’s 2019 injury guarantee looms over 2018 for the Bucs

  1. As a Titans fan, I would argue that so far Winston has proven himself to be a better overall passer than Mariota. However, Mariota is a far FAR better leader and all of his intangibles are pluses for the Titans. Consider how he threw the biggest stiff-arm in Titans history to secure a win and a playoff spot one week and the next threw the biggest block in team history to secure their first playoff win in 14 years. And,yes, Mariota is significantly under-rated as a passer. Stay tuned.

  2. Winston isn’t going anywhere.
    He hasn’t done anything bad (that we know of) since early 2016, over 2 years ago.
    Starting QBs don’t grow on trees either. The Buccs will play him the 3 games he’s not suspended. And he’ll be the starter for them next year too, assuming he stays clean.

  3. Career QB rating of 87.2. Bad charecter. Costs nothing to cut now. It appears to be a no-brainer that the Bucs should have already washed their hands of him.

    It never ceases to amaze me how some billionaire businessman can demonstrate such a complete lack of common sense.

  4. The contract is still guaranteed even if he lied about what happened? If he had deceived the Bucs by not telling them the truth before he had signed the 5th year option can the contract be voided?

  5. The only problem is he was the #1 draft pick and ownership doesn’t want to admit they made a colossal blunder. There is precedence for this though. The Raiders cut Jamarcus Russell three years after being the #1 pick because of his play on the field. With Winston you have to weigh the character concerns. I doubt he will be cut solely on his behavior issues as long as he produces on the field. His QBR is more than double what Russell’s was. It just goes to show…as long as you can play, teams will tolerate just about anything.

  6. Funny how he really has NOT been lighting up the NFL yet some can keep bring up his “potential”… Plays with recklessness and turns the ball over frequently but their fans are so desperate to cling to hope just to say “we have a franchise QB” even if he doesn’t play like 1, act like 1 or has in NO WAY deserved the honor…

    I’ve read some say he is the best in Bucs history… They have a history of bad qbs so that isn’t saying much… He still doesn’t measure up to the average “serviceable” qbs in NFL history… But hey, if it is more important to you to keep him RATHER THAN win – continue to repeat history while the rest of the NFL passes you by… you are in the NFC south with established WINNING teams after all!

  7. Scuba says:
    July 5, 2018 at 10:44 am
    Should probably just cut him and sign Kaepernick

    Well ya got me there. I’ll afmit Karpernicks actions do not offend me nearly as much as Winston’s.

  8. Good managers know how to look at draft pedigree as a sunk cost and ignore it when making roster decisions. All they should be considering right now is how much he is going to cost (both in money and PR) and how much value (both in money and wins) he is going to bring to the team. Weigh those two things in the balance and there’s your decision. I don’t have all the numbers but it would seem to me he probably ought to be released. He’s not that good, just mediocre, and hasn’t shown the ability to improve, plus is a PR nightmare.

  9. …and to prove he makes great choices; his fiancé just had their baby. Let that sink in… anyone think that demonstrates maturity? Or, the opposite? I’m in the latter camp and think the Bucs should cut him loose. He will never be a mature leader no matter how old the calendar says he is. Lot’s of talent for football; but he has no other talents.

  10. “A decision to give Winston one more season to justify the fifth-year option or a long-term deal could blow up on the Bucs, especially if there’s an ACL tear or other serious injury in training camp, the preseason, or the regular season.“

    The same can be said about every player in the NFL with injury-only guarantee. Which is many.

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