What’s Next for Jameis Winston? (2020 Fantasy Football)
But before we go any further, let’s look back at all the good times that the Winston Era brought to the Sunshine State — and to the entire football world.
While at FSU, he allegedly stole $32 worth of crab legs from a Publix Supermarket.
Leon County Sheriff: Jameis Winston left Publix without paying for $32 worth of seafood..Told deputies that he "forgot" to pay for the items
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) April 30, 2014
The news produced some high-quality content.
— madebytim (@MadeByTim) April 30, 2014
Winston also gifted us with 88 career interceptions, including a season-ending pick-six this year.
The final ply of Jameis Winston’s season is a PICK SIX FOR HIS THIRTIETH INTERCEPTION OH MY GOD ITS SO PERFECT pic.twitter.com/atuf7ASfvp
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) December 29, 2019
And, of course, he brought us this legendary pregame speech about eating Ws.
Jameis Winston with an … interesting pump up speech. 🤣 pic.twitter.com/z0tESHAA6k
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 5, 2017
So where will our heroic free agent take his talents next? Let’s identify some potential landing spots for Famous Jameis and make some projections for next season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh might be the best-case scenario for Winston. While Ben Roethlisberger is still around, he might not be for long. The Steelers gave their backups plenty of time to shine last season, and neither Mason Rudolph nor Devlin Hodges looked like they had starting-caliber stuff. NFL Insider Tom Pelissero speculates that Winston could end up in Pittsburgh, and Booger McFarland has drawn this connection as well.
Enter Winston. At just 26 years old, the former first-round pick would rejuvenate a disappointing quarterback room. The Steelers shifted into a more run-heavy team last season after trading Antonio Brown and losing Ben Roethlisberger to injury, but Mike Tomlin has always been a pass-happy coach.
His receiving corps wouldn’t be as good as it was in Tampa, but Winston could quickly reemerge as a QB1 in Pittsburgh. It might take an injury to Roethlisberger or an unexpected retirement, but Famous Jameis could turn things around for the Steelers. And he’d get to travel to Baltimore every year for crab legs, too!
Verdict: QB1 upside — but no floor. Good dynasty buy.
The Jacksonville Jaguars
Maybe Winston won’t leave the Sunshine State after all. The Jaguars recently shipped Nick Foles off to Chicago after he struggled under center for them in 2019, and now they have only the mustached Gardner Minshew and Josh Dobbs left on their quarterback depth chart.
Though Minshew looked good for Jacksonville last year, the franchise has little to lose in bringing in some competition. Whether that’s Winston, Andy Dalton, or some new rookie remains to be seen, but Winston’s connections to Florida will give him some reason to stick around.
Jacksonville would be the next best thing for Winston. He would have a lower fantasy ceiling than in Pittsburgh, but he’d have a better chance to start producing QB1 numbers quickly. D.J. Chark and Chris Conley have the speed to get open deep, and Jacksonville has a much better running game than Tampa Bay did last year. While their offensive line leaves something to be desired, Winston would be a fringe QB1 to start the year if he beat out Minshew.
Verdict: Fringe QB1 if he starts.
The Cincinnati Bengals
While the Bengals look primed to take Joe Burrow first overall, the Miami Dolphins could make a trade for that selection. Also, Andy Dalton’s mid-season benching last year proved that the franchise doesn’t see him as a long-term option anymore, and they could part ways with him. If they do so, they’d have just Ryan Finley and Jacob Dolegala under center. The Finley experience didn’t go so well last season, so I doubt the Bengals will try that again.
For Winston to end up in Cincy, he’d need the Bengals to either trade away Andy Dalton or their first-round pick. If either of those scenarios go down, he’d just have to beat out a rookie or a disgruntled veteran to reclaim a starting job. That, my friends, is something Winston can do!
Unfortunately, he wouldn’t have a great supporting cast. Sure, Joe Mixon is a star running back. And yes, wide receivers A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate, and John Ross are pretty good. But the Bengals just don’t have an offensive line — theirs ranked 30th last season, according to ProFootballFocus, and that won’t leave Winston with enough time to throw many deep balls.
Verdict: Higher-end QB2 if he starts.
The Miami Dolphins
Of course, if the Dolphins can’t land Joe Burrow, they could land Winston. The Dolphins should still select a quarterback in the first round regardless, but they could land some competition for their choice of Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert.
BetOnline has Miami as the favorite to land Winston as of today at -125, and they’re followed by Washington (+275), the Chargers (+700), New England (+700), Jacksonville (+800), and New Orleans (+1400). I wouldn’t take those odds too seriously, though, as three of those six teams have publicly stated that they will not pursue him. More on that later.
If Winston went to South Beach, he’d have a supporting case that’s on the up-and-up. The Dolphins have already splurged in free agency, and they’re certain to land a few new weapons in the draft. I expect that DeVante Parker would work well with Winston, although I’m unsure what Miami’s offense will look like in 2020. Their offensive line ranked last in the league, and they don’t have much talent at running back right now. There are a lot of variables here, so there’s a wide range of potential outcomes.
Verdict: Fringe QB1 to low-end QB2 if he starts.
The New Orleans Saints
Without Teddy Bridgewater, the Saints will have to ask themselves a hard question: can Taysom Hill be a backup quarterback? Hill is already an accomplished gadget player, and him filling the backup role would save them a roster spot. That said, the Saints had a chance to try out life under the 30-year-old Hill when Drew Brees went down last year, and they chose to keep the ball in Bridgewater’s hands.
New Orleans’ decision to sign Bridgewater shows that they’re willing to dish out the dollars for Brees’ backups. The question is just if they will do so again. They extended a first-round tender to Hill earlier in the offseason, which locks him in for $4.66 million. They could opt to leave it at that, or they could a younger player in the NFL Draft.
The Saints would be another strong landing spot for Winston, and Brees’ near-retirement before the Pro Bowl suggests that he won’t be around for much longer. Winston makes sense as a developmental option for the future, and he could return to QB1 status in New Orleans in 2021 if that’s where he ends up.
Verdict: QB1 upside in 2021.
The Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan is a lot younger than Drew Brees, but the Falcons might be in need of a new backup soon. Currently, they’ve got Matt Schaub behind Ryan, and he’ll turn 39 before training camp. Like Pittsburgh and New Orleans, Tom Pelissero has connected Winston to Atlanta as well.
While I doubt that Winston ends up in Atlanta, stranger things have happened. If other teams fill their gaps at the position before Winston signs, he’ll have to take what he can get, and the Falcons could extend him an offer. It’s looking like a must-win year for struggling head coach Dan Quinn, and Schaub couldn’t come through against Seattle last season.
Winston would be off the fantasy radar if he landed in Atlanta. Sure, it’d be nice to see what he could do with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, but there’s little reason to believe he’d get a chance to start. Matt Ryan will turn 35 before this season, which still gives him a few more years of starting-caliber play.
Verdict: Fantasy irrelevance.
The Washington Redskins
According to ESPN’s John Keim, Winston doesn’t have a shot to end up in Washington.
FWIW: there is no chance of the Redskins acquiring Jameis Winston. Spoke to a source earlier this morning.
— John Keim (@john_keim) March 19, 2020
The New England Patriots
Winston’s playstyle just seems at odds with the Patriot Way. The chaotic, improvisational quarterback probably wouldn’t work well under Bill Belichick, and Patriots officials have nipped any rumors in the bud.
— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) March 20, 2020
The Los Angeles Chargers
After they lost Philip Rivers, some speculated that Winston could find his way to Los Angeles. But Ian Rapoport has since reported that the Chargers are out on Winston, which bodes well for backup Tyrod Taylor.
— Chargers Pulse (@ChargersPulse_) March 18, 2020