Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston started three games for Tampa Bay after his return from suspension, and while he looked pretty good in beating up on the Falcons’ depleted secondary in Week 6, his Week 7 and 8 performances were awful. After throwing four interceptions in the team’s loss to the Bengals last week, Winston was benched in favor of veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Bucs try to cling to their playoff hopes.
Needless to say, the benching raised a lot of questions about Winston’s future with the club, questions that were already swirling in the wake of his off-field problems and his general inability to prove himself as a top-tier quarterback, despite flashes of the skills that made him the No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 draft. But Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says Winston has reacted well to his benching, and the team is open to giving him another shot this season.
Winston is under club control through the 2019 campaign via the fifth-year option, but since the option is guaranteed for injury only and comes at a hefty $20.9MM price tag, it is fair to wonder whether Tampa Bay would put him back under center this season and risk putting itself on the hook for that money. But Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports that the Bucs are adamant that Winston’s contract status will not impact what it feels is best for the club (and since head coach Dirk Koetter is very much on the hot seat, he will certainly not concern himself too much with the team’s future financial picture at this point).
Fitzpatrick, though he has played some excellent football this year, is a journeyman for a reason, so Winston could theoretically be reinserted into the lineup at anytime. Plus, La Canfora writes that the team made a point to reach out to Winston this week to explain that they still believe he can be a quality starting quarterback in this league.
At this point, however, all options, including an offseason trade — a possibility that La Canfora floated — are on the table.
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