New Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians continues to put his stamp on his new team by bringing in familiar faces from his Arizona Cardinal days. That continued on Saturday, when the Buccaneers announced that they’re bringing in veteran offensive lineman Earl Watford:
We have agreed to terms with OL Earl Watford.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) March 16, 2019
Watford, who played for the Cleveland Browns a year ago, got his start with Arians and the Cardinals as a fourth-round draft pick in 2014.
Watford gradually worked himself into their starting lineup and started at both guard and right tackle 11 times in 2016 and then varied between right guard and left guard with nine starts in 2017, which was Arians’ last year there.
The Bucs offensive line struggled at times last season and specifically at right guard, where young offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch was repeatedly beaten and targeted by other team’s defensive lines.
The Bucs already made a massive commitment to left tackle Donovan Smith to begin free agency and also picked up the final year option on right tackle Demar Dotson deal. Tampa Bay is the only team in the NFL with at least three offensive lineman making $10 million or more for 2019.
That includes Center Ryan Jensen, who they signed as a free agent last year from Baltimore, and also left guard Ali Marpet, who was given a new contract late in last season.
Back to Watford, the Chicago Bears initially signed him as a free agent before last season, but cut him at the end of training camp. The Browns picked Watford up and he was active for 13 games, but never started in any of them.
Tampa Bay also has last year’s 4th round pick Alex Kappa, who likely will compete for playing time as well at Right Guard. Bucs GM Jason Licht grabbed Kappa in the 2018 draft out of Division II Humboldt State in California doing so out of the same mold as getting Marpet in 2015 from Division III school, Hobart College.
Now, Kappa and Watford will battle for playing time with Benenoch likely moving to be a backup tackle.
Bucs coach Arians wouldn’t endorse Winston future Wednesday
With four games to go, the Buccaneers have been improved the last two weeks and Come Away with victories. However the largest question still looming for them is what is the future of quarterback Jameis Winston be on this season?
And on Wednesday afternoon, first-year coach Bruce Arians created buzz when he refused to endorse Winston coming back for his second season.
Arians met with the media after Tampa Bay’s practice preparing for the Colts and was asked whether Winston had done enough to earn at least a contract for 2020?
“I’ve been in it where you have to win four, we won all four… and we won the Super Bowl. JPP’s been in the same situation. So it’s happened. It’s been done.”
➡️: HC Bruce Arians pic.twitter.com/7Lld1JYfDh
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 5, 2019
“I’m gonna pass on that one. I’m gonna wait until the end of December. There’s been really, really good. And there’s been some really, really bad…. I’m just going to pass until it’s over. And then, we’ll make a decision.”
Winston is currently in the 5th year option of his rookie deal that is paying him $20 million for this season. If the Buccaneers choose to place the franchise tag on Winston, he would likely be making around $25 million for next year.
Winston has been a mixed bag of some success but still way too many turnovers. Heading into this weekend’s play, he currently is 2nd in the NFL in passing yards and tied for 6th with 22 touchdown passes. Winston also had a six-game stretch with 300 yards or more in each one of them, which was the first time in Buccaneers history the quarterback had done that.
However, he has been unable to shake the biggest flaw that has dogged him since his Florida State days, and that’s interceptions and turnovers. Winston still leads the NFL with 25 turnovers through 12 games.
And, this includes three games this season where Winston has had four or more turnovers (all losses), including four interceptions three weeks ago in a crushing home loss to the Saints.
Arians decided to soften his stance a bit during his weekly appearance on SiriusXM NFL radio channel Wednesday night:
.@Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians on his evaluation of Jameis Winston to this point….
"Right now there's a lot of good things on tape" #GoBucs
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) December 5, 2019
However, he still repeated that the decision will be made after the season.
And, it’s obvious that if Winston plays well and the Bucs win at least a couple of more games, then he’s got a great shot to be brought back. However, if Winston continues the turnover problem and the Bucs aren’t winning. that may seal his fate.
Tampa Bay has only one winning season and has never made the playoffs with Winston at the helm. And, the interceptions, turnovers and losing may be too much to overcome.
Bucs bash Jacksonville- Jaguars to turn back to QB Minshew?
The Bucs put together a third win in four games primarily with their defense stuffing the Jaguars on their way to a 28 – 11 victory Sunday. Meanwhile, there’s a larger question looming for the Jags. Will they turn back to rookie QB Gardner Minshew?
More on that in moment.
First, Tampa Bay forced four turnovers and turned the first three of them into touchdowns building a 22-0 lead and never looked back.
The first one was by rookie first-round pick linebacker Devin White, who jumped in front of a Nick Foles pass and the Bucs promptly marched 69 yards in eight plays for their first points, as Peyton Barber capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run and 7 – 0 lead.
The Buccaneers wasted no time in getting their second turnover and immediately, got back in the end zone. This as, just 10 seconds later Shaq Barrett blindsided Foles for a sack/fumble that was picked up by White.
Shaq Barrett gets the sack fumble on Nick Foles, Devin White scoops it up and returns it for a TD. Barrett is now up to 13.5 sacks and 6 forced fumbles on the season.
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) December 1, 2019
He ran it in for his first NFL score, and Barber added a two-point conversion on a run and the lead grew to 15-0.
Foles, making his third start since returning from a broken collarbone in week one, and the Jaguars were actually moving the ball later in the second quarter. They got into the Red Zone, but he was sacked, again, this time by Carl Nassib and fumbled again. That was recovered by Ndamukong Suh, and Tampa Bay proceeded to drive 85 yards with Barber scoring again on a 1-yard run for the three touchdown cushion.
Down 25 – 0 starting the second half, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone went back to his starter earlier in the year- rookie sixth round pick Gardner Minshew. Minshew, who won four games in Foles’ absence, led Jacksonville on two scoring drives, including throwing a three yard TD to Dede Westbrook early in the fourth quarter. Minshew also scrambled and found Westbrook for the two-point conversion to trim the lead to 25 – 11.
It looked as though “Minshew Mania” was going to bite the Buccaneers, as the Jags drove inside the Tampa Bay 10-yard line with plenty of time remaining, but on a third-down and goal play, Minshew was intercepted by Buccaneers rookie defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting which basically ended their comeback.
The Bucs added a Matt Gay field goal late in the fourth quarter for the final margin of 17 points.
Tampa Bay won back-to-back games for the first time this season and now will get three of the final four games of the year at home.
Meanwhile for Jaguars brass and Marrone, they definitely have a controversy on their hands, as the Jags have dropped four straight games. And, Foles has played poorly in his two-and-a-half game since being reinstated as the starter.
The crowd was booing and chanting “Minshew, Minshew” loudly from the middle of the second quarter on.
But, it’s also not an easy decision from a financial standpoint, as Foles is still owed more is $30 million over the next couple of years in guaranteed money.
For his part, Marrone said that he would make the decision and inform the QBs about who will start against the Chargers at home this Sunday. And that could come, as soon as Monday.