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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs coach Arians remained non-committal on QB Winston Thursday

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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?

“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.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs will put former defensive coordinator Kiffin in Ring of Honor

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs are looking forward to their future with a second year under new coach Bruce Arians, but on Friday night, they reached back to their past to honor one of their top assistant coaches in franchise history. And. this fall they will put him in their “Ring of Honor.”

Monte Kiffin, who along with coach Tony Dungy were the architects of the Buccaneers “Tampa 2” defense will become the team’s 14th member of their Ring of Honor in the 2020 season:

The Buccaneers made the announcement Friday night as Kiffin was being honored by the organization, his former players, friends and family, as part of his 80th birthday celebration.

Kiffin who came with Dungy in 1996 to the Bucs and led the defense for 13 seasons, helped Tampa Bay’s defense become one of the youngest fastest and fiercest in all of the NFL in just a few short seasons.

Led by now Hall of Famers, Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, plus Hall of Fame finalists John Lynch and Ronde Barber, the Bucs defense rose to the number one in the NFL in 1999 and again, in 2002. That season, led by new coach Jon Gruden in his first year and Kiffin’s defense, Tampa Bay won their first and only World Championship cementing Kiffin’s legacy.

Kiffin left the Bucs to go coach at the University of Tennessee, when his son Lane became the head coach for one season in 2009. He then left Knoxville after that season when Lane Kiffin took the USC  job. He has spent recent years, as a defensive coach/consultant with the Cowboys and also the Jaguars.

The last couple of seasons he had been with Lane Kiffin in an advisory role at Florida Atlantic.

The Bucs have put 13 previous former players, coaches and even owner Malcolm Glazer, in their Ring of Honor. And, that list includes Sapp, Brooks Lynch and Barber, who was inducted a year ago. Kiffin will be the first assistant coach to be honored. Previously, Gruden (2017) and Dungy (2018) have also both been put in as head coaches, with the architect of the original Buccaneers, John McKay also being inducted also back in 2010.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Should RT Jack Conklin be on Bucs free agent radar?

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As NFL teams continue to do their due diligence on not only their own potential free agents, but what others might be out there too, an interesting name has emerged that could give the Bucs, and other teams, some offensive line help.

It appears that the Titans, fresh off a tremendous playoff run into the AFC Championship game may be willing to part with former number 1 pick, starting right tackle Jack Conklin. And if they’re going to let the former Michigan State star test free agency, Tampa Bay may have a real interest.

First, the Bucs are looking at options on their line, as the senior member of their roster, right tackle Demar Dotson, who’s played his entire 11 year career in Tampa and will be 35 years old this fall, is slated to be a free agent, as well.

And while Dotson has been a mainstay over the course of the last decade on the Bucs offensive line, GM Jason lick and Coach Bruce Arians maybe looking to get younger and some better play out of that position.

Tennessee elected not to pick up Conklin’s fifth year option on his rookie deal and there are some concerns about his ability to pass block. However, there’s no doubting that with power back Derrick Henry, Conklin was part of the unit on offense that played “smash mouth football” throughout the postseason. And, they scored upsets of the Patriots and the Ravens in part behind their tough ground game before falling at Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game.

Next, earlier this week, NFL.com’s reporter/writer Nick Shook, matched Conklin as a possible free agent fit with Tampa Bay, as free agency begins in March.

Conklin did suffer an ACL injury in his second season but is fully healed from that now, and he could be a very cost-effective option four teams looking to solidify their offensive line. Conklin made only $2.7 million in the final year of his initial four year deal with the team declining his $12.9 million option.

As for the Bucs, they already have massive money invested in center Ryan Jensen, guard Ali Marpet and left tackle Donovan Smith on their line, but at the same time, the Bucs also have close to $85 million under the cap once free agency begins.

Clearly, their top priorities are figuring out whether to bring back QB Jameis Winston (and at what price?) and also, how many free agent to be defensive linemen out of Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre Paul and Ndamukong Suh they can also fit under their cap.

Still, you cannot have enough good lineman, and perhaps grabbing the Titans former starter off a playoff team would improve their run game, which sputtered a lot of 2019.

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