In the clearest indication yet that the Bucs appear ready to allow Jameis Winston to at least test free agency when that begins in March, coach Bruce Arians refused to solidly commit to bringing the former number one overall pick back.
In an interview at an NFL coaches clinic in Tampa, Bucs beat writer Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported Arians answers, as he was asked directly about the status of whether the Bucs will put a franchise tag on or let Winston test free agency?
— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) February 13, 2020
“Really nothing has changed,” Arians said. “What’s Door No. 2? You know? Can we make the one we have better? All those things you go through right now.”
“You’re just sitting there waiting to see is there someone available? … Is he a better option?
Those comments remain consistent with the Buccaneers not having publicly backed Winston at any point in the last six weeks of the offseason. That’s since the team blew its final two games to finish 7 – 9 with Winston throwing a career-high 30 interceptions.
After their final loss at home to Atlanta in overtime, where Winston threw the game losing “pick six,” Arians was candid by saying about Winston’s play that it would have to be evaluated pass by pass and game by game in the off-season. Further, he told the media then, that there “was some great and some terrible…. and you have to decide, if the great outweighs the terrible.”
The Bucs obviously will have the opportunity to go after a free agent quarterback or two, as there is much speculation about the likes of Tom Brady with the Patriots, Drew Brees with the Saints and Philip Rivers with the Chargers all apparently about to be available come March.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft has said he wants to bring sure fire Hall of Famer Brady back for the 2020 season and it’s likely that if the 43 year old Brady does not retire and wants to continue to play, that he will be in New England.
The Saints are hamstrung by salary cap problems and cannot designate the future Hall of Famer Brees as a franchise player, again. That’s because they have already done so twice under league rules.
So, their dilemma is to whether or not give Brees a long-term deal or go with backup Teddy Bridgewater, who played well for five games in Brees’ absence with a broken thumb last year or with someone else?
As we wrote earlier this week, Rivers was officially told by the Chargers that he will not be re-signed or franchised and is now available for Tampa Bay and or several other teams that may be interested in the 16-year veteran.
As for Winston, he made just over $20 million in the fifth year option of his rookie deal in 2019, and was supposed to have the best chance to succeed under Arians and offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich. And while Winston did throw for a career-high 5000 + yards, his interceptions and total turnovers continued to be his downfall throughout the season. The Buccaneers finished 1 – 6 in games against teams with winning records and Winston had 17 total turnovers in those seven games.
One other important point is the Glazer family that owns the Buccaneers will make the ultimate decision about what kind of contract, if any, Winston will get. And, they have never given a second follow-up contract to any quarterback that they have drafted. This includes most recently, former number one pick Josh Freeman, who the team released during the 2013 season.
And, former mid-round pick Mike Glennon, who started extensively in 2013 and 14 but was allowed to walk away in 2017 after Winston was had come aboard and Glennon, became his backup.