Jameis Winston

Bucs Notes: Winston, Jefferson, Crowell

Throughout his first season as the Buccaneers’ head coach, Bruce Arians was generally non-committal towards former starting QB Jameis Winston. In one memorable sound-bite towards the end of the 2019 campaign, Arians was asked if Tampa could win with a different signal-caller, and he replied, “With another quarterback? Oh yeah. If we can win with this one (Winston), we can definitely win with another one, too.”

Despite that, Arians recently told Rich Eisen of the NFL Network that he is trying to sell other clubs on Winston (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk). “I’ve called a couple teams,” Arians told Eisen. “You’re going to get one of the hardest workers you’ve ever had and a great young man.” 

However, none of the teams that Arians spoke with indicated they were interested in Winston as a starter. And indeed, teams that entered the offseason with QB needs have either filled those needs, plan to stay the course with their current group of passers, or are expected to use a high draft pick on a quarterback. So at this point, Winston will just need to get on a roster and hope that an opportunity opens up.

Now for more on the suddenly interesting Bucs:

  • We recently heard that the Buccaneers’ top QB choices were Tom Brady, then Teddy Bridgewater, then Winston, and Arians confirmed as much in the above-referenced interview with Eisen. “[A Winston re-up] didn’t work out for us only because [Brady] was available and we had [Bridgewater] if that wouldn’t have worked out,” Arians said. “We were going full steam ahead back with Jameis.”
  • After entering the offseason with a ton of cap space, the Bucs have only about $14MM left to spend, as Greg Auman of The Athletic observes, and some of that will be needed to sign the club’s draft picks. Auman takes a look at a few veteran FAs still available that could fit the Bucs’ remaining needs. One such player is safety Tony Jefferson, who played for Arians for four years in Arizona and who would represent a quality veteran presence in Tampa’s young defensive backfield.
  • The Bucs could wait until the draft to fill their need for a pass-catching RB, but if they are unable to do so or unwilling to wait, they could look at Isaiah Crowell, per Auman. Crowell does not have a past connection to Arians but did play for DC Todd Bowles when Bowles was the Jets’ head coach in 2018.
  • DB Ryan Smith re-signed with the Buccaneers several days ago, and Terez A. Paylor of Yahoo Sports says Smith’s one-year deal has a max value of $2.25MM (Twitter link).
  • Even though Brady may want him, the Buccaneers have no intention of signing Antonio Brown.

Brady Fallout: Bucs, Belichick, Colts, Hoyer

The Buccaneers‘ signing of the most accomplished free agent in NFL history triggered a ripple effect in several cities. That started in Charlotte. Although neither Bruce Arians nor Jason Licht spoke to Tom Brady until Wednesday of last week, the Bucs believed they had a “shell of a deal” with Brady by Tuesday, Peter King of NBC Sports reports. This was hours before the future Hall of Fame quarterback announced he would no longer return to the Patriots. The Bucs’ discussions with Brady’s agent, Don Yee, Tuesday prompted them to bow out of the Teddy Bridgewater pursuit, King adds. Bridgewater’s Panthers offer prompted the Bucs to give him an answer, and they chose to stay in the Brady pursuit without a full commitment. The Bucs had been linked to Bridgewater for weeks.

At February’s end, the Bucs’ quarterback hierarchy went Brady-Bridgewater-Jameis Winston, King notes. Tampa Bay had also been linked to Philip Rivers in February, but it became clear the Colts were his top option.

Here is the latest fallout from the Bucs’ Brady signing:

  • Brady’s camp expressed interest in the Colts, but King notes the interest was not mutual. The prospect of a Rivers-Colts partnership surfaced shortly after the Chargers revealed they would not re-sign him, and while the notion of Rivers-over-Brady sounds interesting based on the veterans’ accolades, Stephen Holder of The Athletic tweets the Colts’ preference of going with a one-year quarterback arrangement probably did not align with Brady’s hopes of a multiyear commitment. Rivers signed a one-year, $25MM deal; Brady became a Buccaneer for two years and $50MM fully guaranteed. Brady also expressed interest in the 49ers, and the Titans were a long-rumored suitor. These franchises joined the Colts and Raiders in leaving the Brady race early.
  • Early this offseason, Brady’s camp put out feelers to other teams, and ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham notes many executives around the league viewed the quarterback as being driven by ill will toward Bill Belichick that they could not tell if he wanted out of New England or merely wanted Robert Kraft to step in and broker a new Pats deal. Belichick refused to give Brady the extension he sought last summer, and Wickersham adds that a Brady-Belichick conversation in late 2017 about the quarterback’s future with the Patriots ended with a “blowup.” This meeting appears to have happened just before Wickersham’s “tension in New England”-centered report that indicated Kraft’s intervention helped drive the Jimmy Garoppolo-to-San Francisco deal. The Patriots gave Brady an incentive package in 2018, leading to his extension-in-name-only 2019 contract.
  • As for the Patriots‘ plans, they may actually be planning a Brian HoyerJarrett Stidham quarterback battle. Hoyer could have earned more money elsewhere but wanted to return to New England because he was told he will have a chance to vie for the starting job, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (video link). The Patriots, as of now, do not have Andy Dalton on their radar and are viewed as being high on Stidham, who has attempted four NFL passes.

Redskins Not Expected To Pursue Cam Newton, Jameis Winston

While Dwayne Haskins‘ status is murkier than it would have been had the Redskins retained Bruce Allen, the Ron Rivera regime’s plan does not include giving Cam Newton a chance to reignite his career.

The Redskins have been linked to Tua Tagovailoa at No. 2 overall, but they will not add a high-profile veteran quarterback. Even if the Panthers cut Newton, the Redskins are not expected to be interested, John Keim of ESPN.com notes. The same goes for Jameis Winston, who is now in search of a new team after the Buccaneers landed Tom Brady.

Washington does not want to put Haskins in a position where he would be the clear backup, Keim adds. That would be the case if Newton and Rivera reunited. Each of Newton’s 124 starts came when Rivera was Carolina’s coach.

The Panthers are having trouble finding a trade partner for Newton, which makes sense given the COVID-19 pandemic preventing teams from having their medical personnel examine players with injury concerns. The Panthers are likely to release the former MVP soon. Winston has not been linked to any teams since the Bucs signed Brady.

Haskins finished with by far the worst QBR figure among qualified passers last season. Daniel Snyder, however, pushed for the Ohio State prospect going into the draft. Although Rivera mentioned Alex Smith as a candidate to start in 2020, the odds may still be against the former No. 1 overall pick playing again. Unless the Redskins draft Tagovailoa over Chase Young, Haskins remains the best bet to take the snaps in Week 1.

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Bucs Still In Contact With Jameis Winston

The Bucs have been exploring their options under center, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll make a change. The Buccaneers are still in “close communication” with Jameis Winston, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link).

This jibes with what we heard yesterday as well – the Bucs, clearly, see an opportunity to upgrade from Winston and his endless stream of interceptions. However, they’ve let to find their solution. As of this writing, they seem intent on making a big play for Tom Brady. No one knows where Brady will go – not even Brady himself – but he won’t be back with the Patriots. The Chargers are also believed to be a leading suitor for TB and other teams could still get involved.

Ditto for fallback options like Teddy Bridgewater and Philip Rivers, so the game of musical chairs could very well lead the Bucs back to Winston. It’s impossible to forecast how it’ll all play out this week, but here’s a scenario that could lead to a reunion: Bridgewater to the Patriots, Rivers to the Colts, and Brady to the Chargers.

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Bucs Have Communicated With Winston

While rumors continue to swirl tying the Buccaneers to quarterback Tom Brady, Tampa Bay is continuing to keep their fallback options open. The team has had communications with Jameis Winston, according to Mike Garafolo.

Winston has had a tumultuous career on and off the field since he was selected with the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. While he has had plenty of flashes of excellence, Winston’s inconsistencies have been well documented. In his first season under head coach Bruce Arians, Winston excelled in some respects surpassing 30 passing touchdowns and 5,000 passing yards, but his limitations were also very much on display throwing 30 interceptions.

It still remains to be seen whether Brady is willing to leave New England in search of greener pastures elsewhere. The 49ers were reportedly Brady’s top choice and the Titans were rumored to be another possible suitor, but both appear uninterested in making a change at quarterback, leaving Brady with no suitors (aside from the Patriots) that made the playoffs last season. Obviously, Tampa Bay is pursuing other options, but by still keeping contact with Winston, it appears the Bucs still consider him a reasonable option.

Buccaneers “All In” On Tom Brady

The Buccaneers are “going all in” on legendary signal-caller Tom Brady, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Bay, of course, has been connected to Brady in recent rumors, but it was difficult to determine how serious the team’s interest was. Apparently, it’s very serious.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has generally been non-committal towards incumbent passer Jameis Winston, who, like Brady, is eligible for free agency. Stroud says Arians wants to move on from Winston, and GM Jason Licht is willing to defer to his head coach.

Licht and Arians certainly have plenty to offer Brady. The club is among the league leaders in cap space and will have plenty of money to lure Brady to sunny, family-friendly Tampa while giving him a two- or three-year deal. The Bucs also have a dynamic pair of receivers and a talented (if uncertain) tight end, and they plan to add the type of pass-catching back that Brady covets. They also plan to draft an offensive tackle to shore up his protection, and Stroud says they will probably add a receiver from the immensely deep class of collegiate wideouts.

The Bucs will also allow Brady to take charge of the offense, and the fact that Florida has no state income tax will only help the team’s push. The defense also looks like a unit on the rise, so if you squint hard enough, you can see Tampa Bay as a contender with Brady under center.

If Brady chooses to sign elsewhere, Stroud says the Bucs’ fallback options are Teddy Bridgewater and Philip Rivers, in that order. Failing that, a reunion with Winston could still be in play, but that is sounding increasingly like a worst-case scenario for the Bucs.

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Bucs Notes: Winston, Godwin, Howard

In addition to the thumb injury that we heard about in early January, Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston was also playing through a torn meniscus for at least some of 2019, as Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports (video link). Per Rapoport, Winston recently had surgery to trim the meniscus tear.

Though Winston’s boom-or-bust tendencies remain an obvious concern, the toughness that he displayed in battling the injuries may help him land a new contract with Tampa, which may have winnowed down its quarterback options to Winston and Philip Rivers.

Now for more from the Bucs:

  • Standout receiver Chris Godwin is now eligible for an extension since he has completed three years in the league, but that is not a front-burner item on the Bucs’ agenda just yet, per Greg Auman of The Athletic. Auman says the club will look to take care of its 2020 FAs first and then see if there is money left in the budget for a new contract for Godwin. Barring something unforeseen, it would be a huge surprise if Tampa lets Godwin hit the open market in 2021.
  • There were rumors that the Bucs were looking to trade much-maligned TE O.J. Howard at the 2019 deadline, and though that did not happen, the former first-rounder was still viewed as a trade candidate this offseason. But as Auman notes, the club still believes in Howard, and it sounds like he will be back in 2020. Fellow TE Cameron Brate, however, could be a trade or release candidate.
  • The Bucs are very young at CB, which has led many to believe that the club will draft a corner with an early pick or sign one in the first wave of free agency, but that’s not necessarily the case. As Auman writes, Tampa is very high on Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, and Sean Murphy-Bunting, so a late-round pick or modest FA signing may be more likely.
  • Likewise, Tampa is bullish on its cadre of safeties, but 2017 second-rounder Justin Evans‘s stock is trending downward, per Auman. Evans has not been healthy enough to practice in a long time, and although the team hoped he would be fully recovered by April 1 and would participate in spring workouts at OTAs, it’s now unclear whether he will be back at all.
  • Unsurprisingly, it does not sound like the Bucs will look to re-sign free agent RB Peyton Barber, per Auman.

Buccaneers Determining QB Path, Preparing To Tag Shaquil Barrett

The prospect of teams using both franchise and transition tags remains in play, though there is a better-than-average chance of the owners’ CBA proposal being ratified and preventing such a path. This would impact the Buccaneers considerably.

Having said for months they plan to keep Shaquil Barrett, the Bucs are preparing to use their franchise tag on the 2019 breakout pass rusher, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. Bruce Arians pointed to this path, unless an extension can be agreed upon, Greg Auman of The Athletic writes (subscription required).

Barrett registered a Bucs-record (by a considerable margin) 19.5 sacks last season, topping his total from four Broncos campaigns. Nevertheless, the 27-year-old sack artist — who is open to giving the Bucs a discount, based on Florida’s lack of a state income tax — will not hit the market. This complicates Jameis Winston‘s status, as he appears behind Barrett on the Bucs’ priority list.

Tampa Bay remains uncertain about its future at quarterback, but the team may well view Philip Rivers as an upgrade on the interception-prone passer. The Bucs are interested in the 16-year Charger/new Florida resident, with La Canfora adding execs around the league believe the team will get aggressive on Winston if a clear sense emerges that Rivers will not sign there. The Colts have surfaced as key players for Rivers, who worked with Frank Reich and Indianapolis OC Nick Sirianni with the Chargers. But Rivers would be an interesting fit for Arians’ deep-passing attack in Tampa as well.

If teams are permitted to use two tags (and not have one of them vacated by a new CBA passing), Winston appears a strong candidate to receive the transition tag. That price will come in north of $25MM, which is at least $2MM lower than the franchise tag value for QBs.

It could also be down to Rivers or Winston for the Bucs, whom Auman tabs as unlikely to draft a quarterback this year. Tampa Bay holds the No. 14 overall pick.

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Buccaneers GM Discusses Jameis Winston, QBs

While Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians couldn’t commit to Jameis Winston, general manager Jason Licht acknowledged that the quarterback is still an option for next season. Talking to reporters, Licht noted that Winston is a candidate to stick around next year.

“We’re not saying we don’t want Jameis,” the executive said (via The Athletic’s Greg Auman on Twitter). “We’re just saying we want to check what’s potentially behind Door No. 2, 3, 4, just so we can gather as much information as possible before we make the decision of what we do.”

We heard last week that the organization was considering a two-year deal for the former first-overall pick, with the contract being guaranteed at a franchise-tag-level rate (of approximately $27MM) for the first year followed by an option year. There are some who believe that the front office will simply slap Winston with the franchise or transition tag, although a new CBA could complicate matters.

While Winston set career-highs in passing yards (5,109) and touchdowns (33) in 2019, he also set a career-high (and led the NFL) with 30 interceptions. Perhaps recent LASIK surgery will help reduce those turnover numbers in 2020.

It sounds like Tom Brady could be behind one of Licht’s proverbial doors. The Buccaneers were mentioned as one of three teams that continue to be associated with the future Hall of Famer and impending free agent (along with the Raiders and Chargers).

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Latest On Bucs’ Plans For Jameis Winston, Shaquil Barrett

One of many key players on this offseason’s unusually large quarterback market, Jameis Winston has not been connected to another team just yet. The Buccaneers have said the former No. 1 overall pick is in their plans, but the team appears to still be determining the structure of Winston’s second NFL contract.

The Bucs are considering a two-year deal for Winston, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter), with said contract being guaranteed at a franchise tag-level rate (of approximately $27MM) for the first year and the second being a team option. This would not be an optimal arrangement for most quarterbacks with Winston’s experience as a starter, but given his inconsistency, a prove-it contract of this sort would make sense for the team.

NFL executives are torn on Winston, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN notes (via ESPN+) the expectation is the Bucs will place their franchise or transition tag on their quarterback during the Feb. 25-March 10 tag window. Even that strategy is complicated.

A new CBA being agreed to next week would prevent teams from using both their franchise and transition tags. If no deal is agreed to next week, the 2011 CBA will permit teams to use both tags, as the league would shift into final-CBA-year rules. That would help the Bucs, who have Shaquil Barrett looming as a UFA as well.

Tampa Bay brass and Barrett’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, are expected to accelerate talks next week at the Combine, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times notes, adding the goal will be to reach an extension agreement by March 10. That would open the door for a Winston tag.

Bruce Arians has said the new Bucs single-season sack record holder “ain’t going anywhere,” and Stroud places Barrett above Winston as the team’s top candidate for the franchise tag. A Barrett tag would be considerably cheaper than one for Winston, with the non-exclusive linebacker tag projected to cost just less than $16MM. Barrett would be worth more than that annually on the open market, despite his lack of sack production going into 2019.

The Bucs hold more than $79MM in cap space — fourth-most in the league — and also have Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul and Breshad Perriman as UFAs-to-be. But Winston and Barrett are the key players here. A Winston transition tag would cost more than $25MM and open the door to the possibility of the Bucs losing him for nothing, but the Bucs may be eyeing one of the other available quarterbacks — a group that includes Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater and trade chips Cam Newton and Andy Dalton — as well.

Extending Barrett or Winston before March 10 would be optimal for the Bucs, but when factoring in the CBA’s role in these negotiations, this is one of the stranger situations a team has encountered in years

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