Jameis Winston

NFC Notes: Leftwich, Nkemdiche, Seahawks

Not long after the Buccaneers hired Bruce Arians as their head coach in January, we learned that Arians’ new OC, Byron Leftwich, would be calling the team’s offensive plays and that Arians considered Leftwich a rising star in the coaching ranks. And as Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports, Arians’ confidence in Leftwich is such that Arians himself is not even in Jameis Winston‘s quarterbacks meeting rooms — despite Arians’ reputation as a quarterback whisperer — and Leftwich is running those meetings. This is a critical campaign for Winston, who is playing under his fifth-year option, and therefore something of a crossroads for the franchise itself. Leftwich has a lot on his plate for a young coach, but Arians clearly believes he is up to the task.

Now for more from the NFC:

  • Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic believes that the Cardinals will cut Robert Nkemdiche before he plays another snap for the club. The former first-round pick was recently arrested for driving on a suspended license, and police found a credit card case that had a white powdery residue consistent with cocaine inside. Somers says that police decided not to test the case and elected to simply destroy it instead, but it’s still not a good look for Nkemdiche. The fact that the defensive lineman is still recovering from a knee injury and is due a $400K roster bonus if he is still on the club on the fifth day of training camp could complicate matters, but Somers still expects Nkemdiche to be gone sooner rather than later.
  • Seahawks OT Jamarco Jones, a fifth-round draft choice in 2018, did not see any regular season action during his rookie campaign, as he suffered an ankle injury in the preseason opener that put him on the shelf for the whole year. Still, he flashed potential last training camp, and Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times expects him to make the club as a backup tackle. And, with George Fant and Germain Ifedi eligible for free agency in 2020, Jones could position himself nicely for a starting role next year.
  • Condotta also expects the Seahawks to continue exploring pass rush options and secondary help.
  • We heard earlier today that the Lions are exploring a deal with free agent DT Domata Peko.

Bucs Rumors: Winston, McCoy, Monken

Here’s the latest out of Tampa:

  • The Buccaneers say they’re looking for a new head coach, but not looking for a new starting quarterback. “Jameis Winston will be here. We have him under contract for a year,” GM Jason Licht said (via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times). “He has done some amazing things for a young 24, turns 25 in a week, quarterback. He’s accomplished more than most of the elite quarterbacks have at his age throughout that time span. There’s a lot to like about Jameis. Jameis will be here next year.” The Bucs picked up the fifth year option on Winston’s contract, which should keep him in place for another season at a rate of $20.92MM. Of course, the option is guaranteed for injury only, so the Buccaneers could theoretically get out of the deal.
  • Licht cannot guarantee that defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will be back with the team in 2019 (Twitter link via Stroud). “We have a lot of tough decisions to make,” Licht said. Thanks to the seven-year, $95.2MM contract extension he signed with the Bucs in 2014, McCoy is slated to be back with the team in 2019 at a $13MM cap number. However, it is a non-guaranteed deal. Despite Tampa Bay’s problems on defense and McCoy’s injury trouble, he still turned in a decent year for the Bucs. McCoy graded out as the No. 27 ranked defensive tackle in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus.
  • Licht says the Buccaneers will not consider in-house candidates for the head coaching job, as Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. That automatically rules out offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who may be up for the Jets job.

Buccaneers To Bring Back Jameis Winston

Although the Buccaneers can entirely absolve themselves of Jameis Winston‘s $20.9MM cap hit for 2019 (barring injury), they are going to give the former No. 1 overall pick another shot, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, who reports that Tampa Bay intends to bring Winston back next season.

As Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets, there was never any indication that the Bucs were going to move on from Winston, but today’s report is the first time we have heard something definitive on the matter. And it’s not as though Winston’s status with the club was a certainty. He was suspended for the first three games of this season due to a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy, which stemmed from an allegation that he groped a female Uber driver in 2016 (Winston and the driver reached a settlement last month). Plus, while he is a clearly talented and capable signal-caller, he is prone to inconsistent play.

But as Greg Auman of The Athletic observes, the Buccaneers would have to spend at least $20MM to land a QB as good as Winston, and even if they parted with Winston and tried to land a future franchise signal-caller in the draft, that would mean resetting the franchise’s clock in a big way (Twitter link). Auman does, however, think it would be reasonable for Tampa Bay to draft a QB prospect in the middle rounds of the 2019 draft to serve as a backup and potential challenger to Winston (Twitter link).

The fact that the Bucs are playing Winston in today’s meaningless finale — and are therefore exposing him to injury, which would trigger the $20.9MM guarantee — suggests that the club is indeed comfortable with Winston moving forward. But the team is also expected to fire head coach Dirk Koetter, and the new head coach may feel differently about Winston and may prefer to go in a different direction. It is unclear whether that will be a factor in the team’s hiring process.

Assuming he does return, Winston will try to break something of a dubious record in Tampa Bay. If he lands a second contract with the Bucs, he will be the first quarterback that the team has drafted in its 44-year history to do so.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs’ Winston, Uber Driver Reach Settlement

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has reached a settlement with an Uber driver who accused him of groping her in 2016, the Tampa Bay Times’ Matt Baker writes.

A sexual battery lawsuit was filed against Winston after the woman alleged the fourth-year quarterback grabbed her crotch in the drive-thru of a Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz. She made the incident known last fall, leading to an NFL investigation which deemed her claim as “consistent and credible.” The incident led to a three-game suspension in 2018 for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy. The woman, identified as Kate P., filed the civil suit in September seeking $75,000 in damages.

Though he denied the allegations and disagreed with the suspension, Winston released a statement in June on the incident:

“Although I am disappointed in the NFL’s decision, I understand the NFL’s process, and I embrace this as an opportunity to take advantage of the resources available to help me achieve the goals that I have for myself.”

Since returning from the suspension, Winston reassumed his role as the Buccaneers’ starting quarterback and has thrown for 1,692 yards and 10 touchdowns in six games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs To Start Jameis Winston Vs. 49ers

The Buccaneers will turn the starting job back over to quarterback Jameis Winston for Sunday’s game against the 49ers, according to Scott Smith of the team website (on Twitter). The move was expected after Winston played well in relief of Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday. 

After entering Sunday’s game against the Giants, Winston completed 12 of his 16 passes for 199 yards with two touchdowns and an interception on the final play of the game. Winston led the Bucs to touchdowns on four straight drives, leaving coaches with more confidence in him than in Fitzpatrick, who lobbed three interceptions.

The 3-7 Bucs are likely out of the playoff picture, but these final six games will be crucial to Winston’s future with Tampa Bay. Winston is under club control through the 2019 campaign via the fifth-year option, but the option is guaranteed for injury only and the Bucs can escape the hefty $20.9MM price tag if they want to. There’s a risk that Winston falters and suffers a serious injury down the stretch, but head coach Dirk Koetter is on the hot seat and aiming to win now.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers Open To Jameis Winston Return

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers To Start Fitzpatrick, Bench Winston

The Fitzmagic is back in Tampa. On Monday, the Buccaneers announced that Ryan Fitzpatrick will start at quarterback in Week 9 over Jameis Winston

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Winston, Manning, Bears, Cowboys

It’s been a rough year for Jameis Winston. First he was suspended for the first three games of the season, then briefly lost his starting job when Ryan Fitzpatrick played very well in relief. He quickly won the job back, but that appears to now be in jeopardy again. Winston was benched during the Buccaneers’ loss to the Bengals today after throwing four interceptions, including a crucial pick-six.

Fitzpatrick played very well in relief, and now it looks like Winston could be heading back to the bench. Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter deflected when asked after the game who would start next week, saying “today is not the day I have to decide that. I don’t have any problems making decisions and I’ll make it when the time is right”, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN (Twitter link). Usually if a coach was sticking with his current quarterback he would say so right after the game, so it sounds like Tampa Bay may be turning back to Fitzpatrick.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Speaking of quarterbacks being benched, Giants coach Pat Shurmur explicitly refused to rule out benching Eli Manning following the team’s bye week. Manning and the Giants offense had yet another rough week in their loss to the Redskins today, and Shurmur for the first time refused to back Manning in his post-game presser. When asked about the quarterback situation Shurmur, like Koetter, deflected and said “I don’t want to go there and I’m not going to tease that”, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN. It sounds like Manning could be headed to the bench, and if he does, it would likely be rookie Kyle Lauletta ascending to the starting position in New York.
  • The Bears got a big win over the Jets, but they didn’t escape the game unscathed. Starting right guard Kyle Long “suffered what appeared to be a serious right foot injury” during the game, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPN. Dickerson writes that Long was on crutches after the game, and it sounds like he could miss a good chunk of time. Long is a three-time Pro Bowler, and his absence would be a massive downgrade to Chicago’s offensive line. Long has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, missing six games in 2017 and eight games in 2016.
  • Before executing the trade for Amari Cooper, the Cowboys conducted extensive background checks into him, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Dallas reached out to many people who knew Cooper in the past, including his college coach Nick Saban, and “the people who knew Cooper spoke glowingly about him”, sources told Schefter. The Cowboys made a heavy investment in Cooper, sending a first round pick to Oakland, so it makes sense why they’d do their due diligence.

NFC Rumors: P. Peterson, Winston, Peters

We heard last week that the Cardinals were at least willing to listen to trade offers for Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick, and while GM Steve Keim later threw cold water on those rumors, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that Arizona is not only looking to deal Bucannon and Reddick, but that the team is also open to parting with star cornerback Patrick Peterson. Mike Jurecki of the team’s official website tweets that there is zero chance that the Cardinals move Peterson, but even if that’s the case, it seems apparent that the rebuilding Cards will be busy as we approach the October 30 trade deadline.

Now let’s take a look at a few more items out of the NFC:

  • Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network (video link) reports that Jameis Winston‘s job with the Buccaneers is pretty secure for the time being, but the rest of the season will be critical in determining Winston’s long-term future with the club. He is under club control through 2019 under the fifth-year option, but that option would cost the Bucs $20.9MM and is guaranteed for injury only, so if Winston performs poorly but remains healthy, Tampa Bay could conceivably cut ties after the 2018 season.
  • La Canfora reports that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tried to hire Falcons team president Rich McKay in recent years to oversee the league’s football operations, a department that has come under fire for its handling of Bountygate, Deflategate, and other scandals. However, the compensation committee, which has been trying to cut spending, would not authorize the creation of an expensive executive position like that, and there is nothing to indicate that anything will change in that regard, even if McKay were open to such a post (which he apparently was).
  • Eagles LT Jason Peters suffered a torn biceps against the Giants on Thursday night, but Rapoport tweets that Peters is expected to return and play this season and could miss just a game or two. While Peters has not been performing to his usual standards in 2018, this is still obviously great news for Philadelphia.
  • Redskins head coach Jay Gruden and cornerback Josh Norman have discussed the halftime incident that garnered some media attention earlier this week and have put the matter behind them, per Rapoport (video link). Rapoport says that Gruden stepped to the front of the locker room to address the team at halftime of Monday’s loss to the Saints, and Norman had his headphones on — as he always does at halftime — and had his back to Gruden, so did not know that the head coach had begun talking. Gruden took exception to what he perceived as a lack of attention and yanked the headphones of off Norman’s head, which obviously made Norman upset. Norman walked away from Gruden and was therefore benched to start the second half, but it does not sound as if this issue will be a lingering problem for the two men moving forward.
  • The Packers, at 2-2-1, are clearly not performing as well as they would like, and Pete Dougherty of PackersNews.com has a couple of suggestions as to how Green Bay might shake things up. Dougherty believes the team should consider making a change at safety, either by giving Jermaine Whitehead a shot at starting or moving Bashaud Breeland into the rotation (when healthy), and he also believes Robert Tonyan should get more snaps at tight end.

Bucs To Start Jameis Winston

Fitzmagic is no more. On Monday, coach Dirk Koetter announced that Jameis Winston will be the Bucs’ starting quarterback when they face the Falcons in Week 6. 

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Winston was suspended for the first three games of the season and Fitzpatrick was stellar in his absence – at least through the first two games. Fitzpatrick had an up-and-down Week 3 against the Steelers and the wheels completely came off on Sunday against the Bears. When Winston took over, he outperformed the Harvard product by completing 16 of 20 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. Winston threw a pair of picks in the process, but he still looks like the more promising option of the two.

Winston is under club control through the 2019 season thanks to his fifth-year option. The option, guaranteed for injury only, is worth $20.9MM. If Winston plays well from here on out, the Bucs will have an easy call to make in the offseason. If he falters, Winston could hit the free agent market, where he can still cash in due to positional scarcity.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.