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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Despite record setting weeks Bucs must still be smart with Winston

Jason Cole

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Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The temptation is strong to believe that Bucs QB Jameis Winston has turned the corner.

Four consecutive wins. Franchise historic stats. Fantasy football domination.

A Sunday in Detroit, where he became the first QB in league history to throw for 450+ yards in back to back games.

It is easy, at this point, to believe that a full year under coach Bruce Arians has started to really work for Winston and turn his excellent talent into results worth paying for on a long-term contract or even a franchise tag.

Don’t be fooled. At the same time, don’t close the door.

As stated before in this space, Winston is worth bringing back in the right situation and under the right deal. If he is willing to do, say a three-year deal with a sizable chunk upfront that gives Tampa Bay the chance to get out of the deal, so be it.

But, if you’re talking about slapping him with a “Franchise Tag” or giving him a five- or six-year deal with $60 million or so guaranteed, both of those options are a hard pass.

No chance.

In fact, the best course of action with Winston is this: Let him hit the market. If some teams want to overpay for a guy who is as sloppy and turnover prone as Winston, that’s they’re problem. But if, as many people expect, Winston gets only a lukewarm reception in the free agent market, the Buccaneers can play the savior and bring him back.

The key is that letting Winston hit the market is a dose of reality. It’s a chance for Winston to see what’s out there and likely find out that the Buccaneers and Arians are a pretty good combination.

But if the opposite happens and the Bucs overpay for Winston to return to Tampa Bay on a long-term deal or, worse, keep him with the franchise designation, the whole situation sends the wrong message. That message to Winston is the same one he has been hearing all his life.

The message that no matter what he does, it’s all good. That was the message in college, which allowed Winston to roam Florida State through one bad situation to another. Despite all his mistakes, Winston sill managed to go No. 1 overall.

Now, after five seasons of producing turnovers the way no one else in the NFL has done, the Bucs would be doing the same thing they did before. The result is going to be a player who doesn’t get better fast enough. His rate of 4.5 interceptions per 100 passes is the highest of his career. His 12 fumblers are the second most of his career.

For every great thing Winston does – such as the 30 touchdown passes he has now thrown so far this season to set a career high – he does something just as significant to undermine his team. He has 25 interceptions and three lost fumbles.

Yes, some of those are tipped throws. Most of them are sloppy throws by a player who should know better in his fifth NFL season. Even in the last four weeks of victories, there were still seven total turnovers.

Thus, if the Buccaneers are to proceed with Winston, they have to do it on their terms, not his. They need to be able to tell him what he needs to hear, not beg him to listen after they have already paid him big money.

As much as the past four weeks have been sensational statistically, there’s no getting around the fact that three of those wins are against bad/awful teams (Detroit has now lost 10 of 11 games, and earlier winning at Atlanta and at Jacksonville). The fourth win is a plummeting Colts team that has lost five of six games and that still has to play at angry New Orleans Monday night.

In six games against teams with winning records this season, Winston and the Bucs are 1-5 and he has 13 turnovers.

You don’t pay for that.

You look it, you see if you can fix it and you make a decision accordingly.

But you don’t pull out a check book for a guy like that who will take your money and let it go to his head.

Resist the temptation.

Jason Cole is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector who has covered the NFL since 1992. He has worked for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, The Miami Herald, Yahoo Sports! and Bleacher Report. He is the author or co-author of six books, including Giant with Plaxico Burress and Heart for the Game with Simon Keith.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Peter King- “Bridgewater to Tampa Bay makes sense”

Florida Football Insiders

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Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the start of another week, and speculation about “quarterback musical chairs” in NFL free agency continues. And a prominent NFL media member believes that current Saints backup Teddy Bridgewater might leave New Orleans and he sees a possible fit with the Buccaneers.

Peter King, now with Pro Football Talk, gave analysis on numerous quarterback situations and potential free agents to be in his Monday morning column. And, while he is not reporting that the Saints will allow Bridgewater to be a free agent and/or that the Buccaneers would be his destination, he does lay out a solid case for a marriage between the two:

Obviously, the Saints must first decide what to do with veteran Hall of Famer to be, Drew Brees, who is slated to become a free agent and cannot be franchise tagged. And, Bridgewater more than acquitted himself a year ago coming off the bench, when Brees was out with a fractured thumb. That included a four-touchdown performance in October in a a win at home against Tampa Bay.

King wrote in part, these thoughts Monday,

Teddy Bridgewater: Tampa Bay makes sense

I can hear it now: Bridgewater doesn’t have the deep arm Bruce Arians needs. I would dispute that. When Arians put Carson Palmer in the pilot’s chair in Arizona, his previous NFL yards per attempt in Cincinnati and Oakland was 7.2. Bridgewater’s career NFL yards per attempt: 7.2.

…..I noticed something with Arians this season. He defended almost every (Jameis) Winston miscue for the first three months of the season. In December, though, that changed. Tampa was 7-7 entering the last two games, both at home. In game 15, against Houston, Winston threw interceptions on two of the first five Buc snaps, and Tampa was down 10-0 after four minutes.

The Bucs lost by three. Next week: Overtime against Atlanta. First play, Winston somehow didn’t see lurker linebacker Deion Jones on tight end Cameron Brate. Pick six. “It smells as bad as it could possible smell,” Arians said after the game. The Bucs had a clear path to a redemptive 9-7 seasons, but six interceptions in the last two weeks ruined that. 

….. This is the story about Bridgewater I appreciate: After Drew Brees was lost with a hand injury in Week 2 and Bridgewater took over, Bridgewater hosted a dinner in Seattle—site of the next game—for all the offensive players, basically to say, All is not lost. We’ll be fine. Minus Brees, the Bridgewater-led Saints went 5-0.

Maybe the Bucs will think Winston deserves another chance with Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. But I won’t be surprised if they go after Bridgewater or Ryan Tannehill, the best free-agent quarterbacks on the market.”

Definitely a compelling argument, but, again, it still has to play out as to whether the Saints don’t re-sign Bridgewater and how, interested are the Bucs vs. other potential teams when the free agency mayhem begins?

As for Tampa Bay are obviously trying to decide what to do with their own free agent-to-be, Winston. As we wrote late last week, coach Bruce Arians remained non-committal on whether to bring back their starter of the last five seasons. This is mainly due to Winston’s inconsistent play, numerous interceptions and the fact the Bucs have had only had one winning season in his five years at the helm.

It this type of  “connect the dots” free agency talk will only continue to build until either Tampa Bay commits to Winston or free agency begins without the Bucs having signed Winston to a long term deal or given him the one year franchise tag. The clearest of indications that they’ve moved on and want a new QB.

And, everyone continues to wait on those decisions.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL analyst- Bucs DE Shaq Barrett top player in free agency

Florida Football Insiders

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off an amazing first season with the Bucs, defensive end Shaq Barrett is in line for a huge payday. And, a respected NFL analyst says Tampa Bay better be ready to pay, because he believes Barrett is the top free agent upcoming for the entire NFL.

Brian Baldinger, a former 12 year player and now analyst with the NFL Network, posted on social media Saturday evening what he loves about Barrett’s pass-rushing skills and then made his declaration:

There is no exaggerating that Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectations off of a one-year, modest free agent signing from the Broncos by Bucs GM Jason Licht. His four sack game in week 2 against Carolina put the entire NFL on notice.

And, Barrett continued to be a dominant pass rush force for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles the entire season. He ultimately broke Tampa Bay’s single season sack record held by Hall of Famer Warren Sapp in the final game of the season. Barrett finished with 19.5 sacks, which led the NFL.

Now, the Bucs and Licht have to decide whether they’re going to give Barrett a massive contract or perhaps, entertained putting the “franchise tag” on him to ensure that he’s one of the top five paid defensive ends in football. If Licht and the Bucs choose to do that, Barrett will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year.

One concern for the Buccaneers is that Barrett’s breakout 2019 with the 19.5 sacks is more than he had in his previous five years in Denver combined. So, naturally, there is some skepticism that he will be able to produce at that high of a level for multiple years.

Still, it’s going to take that kind average per year deal to keep him from being available via free agency for someone else to sign. And, a further benefit to the franchise tag is at the Buccaneers could always reach a long-term agreement later this off season after tagging Barrett, too.

Now, we wait to see what Tampa Bay can get done.

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