The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the first-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft on Jameis Winston, expecting him to be a long-term franchise centerpiece. That expectation hasn't changed, as evidenced by the team's decision to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.
Just as it was a year ago with Mike Evans, that decision was the easy and expected one. The Buccaneers had until May 3 to exercise Winston's option and officially did so on Tuesday. The timing had more to do with the beginning of the team's offseason program on Monday, which brought most of the roster back into team headquarters. Similarly, wide receiver Adam Humphries – one of Winston's favorite targets – officially signed his tender offer as a restricted free agent on Monday, shortly after returning to work.
Since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified in 2011, all first-round draft picks have received four-year contracts with a fifth-year option for the team. That option must officially be exercised or declined between the player's third and fourth seasons. Adding the fifth year to Winston's original deal does not preclude the team and the player from working on a new contract that extends beyond 2019. After exercising Evans' option last spring, the Buccaneers signed him to an extension this past March that runs through the 2023 campaign.
Also like Evans, Winston was a top-10 pick. That means his 2019 salary will be equal to the average of the top 10 salaries at his position the previous year. Players selected outside the first 10 picks of the first round get the average of the third through 25th highest salaries at their position.
Through his first three seasons, Winston has started all 45 games in which he has played, in the process amassing 11,636 passing yards, 69 touchdown passes and 44 interceptions. He is the second-youngest passer in NFL history, after Drew Bledsoe, to surpass the 10,000-yard passing mark, having just turned 24 a few days after the end of the 2018 campaign. His 69 touchdown tosses set a new record for a player yet to turn 24, surpassing by one the mark set by Hall of Famer Dan Marino.
Winston was the first quarterback in NFL history to open his career with two consecutive 4,000-yard passing seasons, setting a new franchise single-season record in 2016 with 4,090 yards. A shoulder injury cost him three games and large parts of two others this past season, but he still threw for 3,504 yards and 11 touchdowns. Despite the injury, Winston improved his completion percentage and passer rating for the second straight year, hitting career highs with 63.8% and 92.2 in those respective categories. The jump in his completion rate, from 60.8% in his sophomore campaign, was particularly impressive because it was coupled with a rise in his yards per attempt, from 7.2 in 2016 to 7.9 last year.
Evans and Winston are the first two Buccaneer first-round picks to have their fifth-year options exercised since the new system began in 2011. Tampa Bay's first-round pick that year was defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who lost nearly two full seasons to injuries in his four years as a Buccaneer. The Bucs had two first-round picks in 2012 in safety Mark Barron and running back Doug Martin, but Barron was traded to the Rams prior to the option decision and the team declined to pick up Martin's fifth year, though he was subsequently signed to a second contract. The Bucs traded their 2013 first-round pick to get veteran cornerback Darrelle Revis. Evans and Winston were the next two first-rounders, and they have formed what is destined to be the most prolific QB-WR tandem in franchise history.