Winston signs four-year, $25.35 million deal with Buccaneers
Jameis Winston is eager to get to work for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner signed a four-year, $23.35 million contract Friday, less than 24 hours after being selected with the first pick of the NFL draft.
A person familiar with the contract, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the terms were not made public, said more than $16.6 million of the deal, which includes an option for a fifth year, is guaranteed.
Winston said he was glad to have ”the contract stuff out of the way,” adding he hoped to get his hands on the team’s playbook and start working as soon as possible.
”This whole thing has been long for me,” the quarterback said of the months-long draft process.
”Football is what I’m here for,” Winston added. ”I can’t wait.”
Talks began Thursday, when the Bucs selected the former Florida State star, despite questions about off-the-field issues that threatened to undermine Winston’s spot in the draft.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht said the speedy conclusion with the contract was a reflection of how elated the team is to have Winston, as well as the quarterback’s excitement with being picked by Tampa Bay.
”It shows us that he wants us as much as we wanted him,” Licht said.
Licht later reiterated the Bucs are confident Winston is a young man who has made some mistakes off the field, but is not a bad person.
The quarterback was accused of sexually assaulting a former Florida State student, though he was never arrested or charged in the case. He also made headlines when he was cited for shoplifting crab legs from a supermarket and suspended for one game last season after climbing on a table on campus and shouting an obscenity.
The crab legs incident was back in the spotlight Thursday night after Winston posted a picture of himself on Instagram posing in a No. 3 Buccaneers jersey while holding a tray of crab legs a friend provided for his draft party in his hometown of Bessemer, Alabama.
Winston later deleted the photo from his account.
”I was just saying thanks to a friend,” Winston said, adding that reaction to the photo on social media caught him by surprise.
Asked his reaction, Licht joked: ”The world knows — and Tampa definitely knows — Jameis loves crab legs.”
The Bucs said they don’t intend to implement any special measures to ensure Winston avoids trouble off the field.
”We are not bringing anyone in. We don’t really need any mentors or anything like that. … We wouldn’t bring anyone in that needs to be babysat or anything like that. That’s not the case with Jameis,” coach Lovie Smith said.
Licht and Smith both expect veterans in the locker room, as well as others who ”really care about or organization” to help Winston get acclimated to being a professional. The young quarterback already has a relationship with Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks and several other former Bucs living in the area.
”Jameis is his own man and Jameis is going to heed the advice of a lot of veterans. I’m sure of it. I’ve had discussions with him about that,” Licht said. ”Jameis is going to be his own man. He has to find his own way, just like all of our players.”
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher traveled to Winston’s hometown to be with his former player on draft night. He, too, is confident that the 21-year-old is ready to flourish on and off the field.
”I think we know more about him than we do any player in this draft, because I think he went through scrutiny, he went through people doubting his character, his playing, what he does. Every part of his life has been picked apart,” Fisher told The Associated Press.
”How guys react when they get to that, you don’t know. Hopefully they’ll handle it and the other guys do, too. But what he has done so far, I think we know more about him than we do anybody else in the draft.”
Fisher is also convinced Winston will be just fine handling the pressure of playing quarterback in the NFL.
”It’s going to be a challenge because there’s going to be high expectations. But the thing about it, wherever he’s been, there’s been high expectations. The day he became the starter. The day he came to school. After winning the national championship, after winning the Heisman. It’s always a challenge,” Fisher said.
”Every day you get up, you’ve got to realize that. That’s never going away,” the FSU coach added. ”The quicker he accepts that, the quicker he’ll move on from that. The big key for him right now is to not worry about the results … how many wins I have.”
The Bucs don’t have any concerns, either, about how he’ll cope with pressure associated with being a player expected to lead a turnaround.
”There are big expectations. It’s one of the things with Jameis that set him apart. He can play in some pressure, now. He plays best in the clutch,” Licht said.
”You saw him in tough pressured situations (in college), and when you get a chance to talk with him, he kind of relishes that role,” Smith said. ”He has a lot of confidence in himself and what he can do in his role on the football team. Again, every time you talk to him, you see that a little bit.”
The Buccaneers used their second pick to protect the first pick.
They chose Penn State offensive lineman Donovan Smith, who will presumably have a major hand in keeping defenses away from Winston.
"Oh, yeah, baby, me and Jameis, that’s all I’ve got to say," Smith said after the Bucs chose him. "We’re going to the top."