Winston began the year by serving a multi-game suspension and Fitzpatrick made the most of the opportunity. At least, he did for a little while. Fitzpatrick led the Bucs to upset wins over the Saints and Eagles in his first two weeks and nearly got the W over the Steelers in Week 3. Things fell apart for the veteran in Week 4 against the Bears’ top-notch defense, putting Winston back into the lineup.
Unfortunately, the FSU product hasn’t fared well in recent weeks. On Sunday, Winston lobbed four interceptions and the Bucs offense only regained life when Fitzpatrick was called upon to lead the charge. The Bucs scored 18 points in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late as the Bengals won 37-34.
The decision to bench Winston may have ramifications beyond the 2018 season. The former No. 1 overall pick is tied to the team through 2019 through his fifth-year option, but that option is guaranteed for injury only. If the Bucs keep Winston on the pine, they can move on from him this offseason without the specter of a $20MM+ obligation.
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