Jameis Winston wants to play with free agent DeSean Jackson next season and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should want the same.
In Year 2, Jameis Winston fell just short of leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the NFL Playoffs. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft took tremendous strides as a player and, despite a lackluster defensive effort from his team, put the team on his shoulders and tried to carry them. After failing, though, the Buccaneers have the opportunity to get their franchise quarterback someone to help bare the burden on offense. Namely, they have everything in place to go after DeSean Jackson in 2017 NFL free agency.
Entering the 2017 offseason, the Buccaneers have the fifth most cap room of any team at just north of $61.9 million, per Over The Cap. Though they have holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball, an upgrade outside of Mike Evans at wide receiver is necessary. Tampa likely would’ve needed the same if Vincent Jackson and Russell Shepherd weren’t heading for free agency—but they are.
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Obviously they could look to bolster their depth at wideout through the draft. Frankly, they could still do that regardless of what happens in free agency. However, the notion of adding DeSean Jackson is almost too enticing to pass up if you’re the Bucs front office.
Winston has many strengths as a quarterback and seems to develop more with each game played. However, his one unlearnable asset in his arsenal is that he has a cannon attached to his shoulder. What’s more, the Buccaneers showed a distinct willingness to take shots down the field. Though Jackson is far from a one-trick pony, beating teams over the top and hauling in the deep ball remain his biggest strengths.
“I’ve met him before, and we want DeSean. You better believe we want DeSean here,” Winston said. “I think he would be a great asset to our team. Me growing up an Eagles fan, seeing what he did for the Eagles and back in his Cal days and even with the Redskins, I would love to have DeSean.”
What’s more, this isn’t just a quarterback liking a wide receiver and realizing that he’d help the offense. ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported on Tuesday that the Buccaneers are a potential landing spot for the free agent wideout. So there is grounds to think that Winston and Jackson could indeed be united in the Buccaneers passing game.
Despite Winston leading the Bucs to the outside fringe of the postseason, the Buccaneers were just middle of the pack in terms of their passing offense in 2016. With 3,926 passing yards total on the year, they ranked 16th in the league (Pro Football Reference). They were middle of the road as well in terms of yards per attempt, ranking 16th in that category as well at 7.2 per. Considering their propensity for throwing deep, that speaks to the lack of consistency in doing so, which can be attributed simply to a lack of weapons capable of making plays reliably in such situations.
Jackson changes that upon arrival, however. With the Washington Redskins in the 2016 season, the veteran speedster average 17.9 yards per reception, the best mark in the NFL (Pro Football Reference). Even at 30 years old, his speed has not left him just yet and he’s still one of the most viable pure deep threats in the league.
Given all of this, signing Jackson shouldn’t just be a possibility for the Buccaneers in 2017 free agency; it should be a priority. They have the cap room to potentially overpay if necessary, a connection with their quarterback to use as a recruiting tool, and a hole in the offense the exact size and shape of Jackson.
If the Buccaneers showed they were on the cusp of breaking out in 2016, Jackson could be one of the pieces to put them over the hump. Again, that will also require addressing needs on defense (defensive line and safety come to mind). However, Jackson could be the missing piece to the offensive puzzle. And, if nothing else, the veteran receiver could help elevate Winston to becoming a bon a fide superstar.