Ryan Fitzpatrick

South Rumors: Irvin, Dez, Fitz, Titans

Bruce Irvin clearing waivers and landing with the Falcons gives him a chance to earn nearly $10MM this season. His one-year (or, eight-game) Falcons deal is worth $1.5MM, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. Irvin was playing on an $8MM salary with the Raiders this season, and Florio notes he can recoup the balance of that salary ($3.76MM) by filing a termination pay claim. Vested veterans (at least four seasons’ experience) can do this one in their careers, and this may be the most money Irvin, 31, can claim through this measure. Total, the seventh-year veteran can collect $9.75MM this season. Considering he entered the year with no more guarantees remaining in his deal, that’s not a bad haul.

Here’s more from the Irvin front, along with the latest from the South divisions:

  • With Irvin rejoining a Dan Quinn defense, this one housing recent first-round defensive ends Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley, he won’t be the unquestioned top edge rusher like he was in Oakland. However, Quinn — who coached Irvin with the Seahawks — is planning a NASCAR package with the three ends and Grady Jarrett, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Quinn said the team will use the trio on the field together in practice this week in preparation to deploy the speed set a game at some point. The Falcons’ 17 sacks rank 27th in the league. Beasley has just one and is Pro Football Focus’ worst-graded full-time edge defender this season.
  • A six-plus-month stay in free agency ended for Dez Bryant earlier Wednesday, but the new Saints wide receiver is still looking to return to the market in 2019. Bryant wants to prove himself on a contending team and become a free agent again, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes. This has been Bryant’s plan all along, and he’ll likely join Tre’Quan Smith as a key complementary receiver for Drew Brees.
  • The Buccaneers won’t be pivoting back to Jameis Winston this week. Dirk Koetter confirmed (via ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine) Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the starter in Week 10. Although Fitzpatrick threw two interceptions in a 42-28 loss to the Panthers, he led the Bucs back from 35-7 and made it a one-score game. Tampa Bay ranks first in pass offense (356.6 yards per game) by more than 30 yards.
  • The TitansMalcolm Butler signing hasn’t worked out the way the team had hoped yet. Signed to a five-year, $61.25MM deal, Butler has struggled in coverage and rates as PFF’s No. 98 cornerback through eight games. Mike Vrabel, though, does not plan to bench Butler. The first-year coach attributes some of the defender’s woes to reading the wrong keys, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.
  • Tennessee may have to temporarily demote Jack Conklin, though. The right tackle starter is in concussion protocol after the Titans’ win over the Cowboys. Conklin already missed this season’s first four games because of the ACL tear he suffered in last year’s playoffs. Conklin has started five games this year and was on the field for all 32 Tennessee regular-season contests during his first two NFL seasons.

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.

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. 

[RELATED: Bucs’ O.J. Howard To Miss Time]

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.

Bucs Bench Ryan Fitzpatrick For Jameis Winston

Active for the first time after serving his three-game suspension, it didn’t take long for Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston to see the field. The former first-overall pick replaced starter Ryan Fitzpatrick during the second half of Tampa Bay’s loss to the Bears today.

The Buccaneers offense struggled mightily with Fitzpatrick in the game. Before being benched, the veteran quarterback had completed nine of his 18 pass attempts for only 126 yards. He also threw an interception and was sacked twice. Winston ended up finishing the game having completed 16 of his 20 pass attempts for 145 yards, one touchdown, and two picks. He also added a single seven-yard rush. After the game, head coach Dirk Koetter said Winston had probably done enough to earn the starting nod for his team’s Week 6 contest against the Falcons (via The Athletic’s Greg Auman on Twitter).

Fitzpatrick got off to a roaring start this season, as he compiled at least 400 passing yards and four touchdowns in each of his first two games. However, the 35-year-old threw three interceptions during last week’s loss to the Steelers, and Koetter admitted to his team that he almost replaced the veteran with backup Ryan Griffin.

Some wondered whether this was an attempt by the organization to lay the foundation for Winston’s inevitable return to the lineup. When the team announced that Fitzpatrick would be starting today’s game, they partly attributed the decision to the fact that Winston had had less than a week of practice under his belt. Koetter had previously said the coaching staff would reevaluate the quarterback position during the upcoming bye week.

While Fitzpatrick may have won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award following his performance in the Bucs’ first two games, it’s sounding like he’ll probably be riding the pine when the Bucs return to the field in Week 6.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Buccaneers’ QB Situation

Although the Buccaneers could not conjure quite enough FitzMagic to pull off a comeback win against the Steelers on Monday, Tampa Bay will start Ryan Fitzpatrick against the Bears this afternoon, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). This was the expected move given how well Fitzpatrick has generally played through the first three weeks of the season and in light of the fact that the team is on a short week this week.

Plus, we heard earlier this month that Fitzpatrick would remain under center for as long as he performs at a high level. But according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter told his team during a meeting on Wednesday that he was “one or two plays away” from lifting Fitzpatrick on Monday night in favor of backup Ryan Griffin. At the time Koetter was contemplating that move, Fitzpatrick had just thrown his third interception and the club was trailing Pittsburgh 23-7.

Koetter, of course, did not end up pulling Fitzpatrick, but the fact that he made his thought process known to his team took some Buccaneers by surprise. Some players simply took Koetter’s words at face value, but some wondered whether he was laying a foundation for Jameis Winston to return, perhaps as soon as Week 6 (Tampa Bay has a bye in Week 5). After all, the team still views Winston as its long-term quarterback, so it stands to reason that he will be under center at some point soon, even if Fitzpatrick continues to overachieve.

Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports that the Bucs will reassess their QB situation during their bye week, and that Koetter has informed Fitzpatrick and Winston of his plans. Koetter said, “We know what we’re going to do. Both guys know what we’re going to do. Hope everybody can appreciate that it doesn’t do us any good to tell our opponents what we’re going to do.”

Winston was not permitted to practice at the team facility during his suspension, but Laine writes that he brought in quarterbacks coaches George Whitfield and John Beck and longtime trainer Otis Leverette to help him maintain the same schedule he had with the Bucs, and the group conducted daily workouts with 25 free agents and former teammates.

Winston’s initiative impressed Koetter, who said, “Hats off to Jameis for putting together a group of guys to do what he did…Jameis is a quarterback, coach and GM all at the same time — perfect. I think there is a little adjustment period, and that’s one of the things we’re trying to move along as quickly as we can.”

Reading between the lines, it certainly seems as if Winston may be starting for the Bucs in Week 6.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

La Canfora’s Latest: Steelers, Bengals, Bucs

Antonio Brown‘s decision to skip practice on Monday represented a culmination of months of tension between the Steelers and their All-Pro receiver, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. Brown was upset earlier this year after being told that his personal trainer and social media manager would no longer be welcome on Pittsburgh’s practice field, and some within the organization believe his multi-day absence during training camp — ostensibly due to a injury — was instead related to his disappointment. Ultimately, the Steelers believe Brown simply wants to win, but there is reportedly also concern with the club that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s close relationship with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner (and his subsequent influence on play-calling) could cause more strain in the locker room.

Here’s more from La Canfora:

  • Bengals running back Joe Mixon could potentially return to the field in time for Week 4, per La Canfora. Mixon underwent knee surgery immediately following Cincinnati’s Week 3 Thursday night victory, and initial assessments indicated he could be sidelined two-to-four weeks. However, because the Bengals played mid-week in Week 3, Mixon’s timeline could be sped up, meaning he could return to action when Cincinnati faces Atlanta next Sunday. A second-round pick in 2017, Mixon was outstanding during the Bengals’ season opener, averaging more than 5.5 yards per carry on the ground while adding five receptions in the passing game. Backup Giovani Bernard is holding down the fort while Mixon is out, while the Bengals also have Mark Walton and Thomas Rawls on their running back depth chart.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick is unlikely to be replaced as the Buccaneers‘ starting quarterback no matter how he fares against the Steelers on Monday night, reports La Canfora. While Jameis Winston will come off suspension prior to Week 4, Fitzpatrick has been among the league’s best quarterbacks through two games, as he leads the NFL passing yardage while racking up eight passing touchdowns. Fitzpatrick has internal support within the locker room (and especially from Tampa Bay’s offensive line), so the club’s coaching staff is unlikely to make a change any time soon. The Buccaneers face the Bears in Week 4 before heading into a bye the following week.
  • The Raiders will move to Las Vegas either in 2019 or 2020, and they could potentially need a temporary stadium for the 2019 campaign if no extension with the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority can be reached. With that in mind, the Raiders have contacted the city of San Diego about playing there next season, says La Canfora, who notes that such as possibility is viewed as remote. More likely, the Raiders will play one year in Oakland, or spend next season sharing Levi’s Stadium with the 49ers.

Jameis Winston May Not Immediately Start Upon Return

While this may seem like overreaction to one strong performance against a suspect defensive unit, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that Ryan Fitzpatrick may remain the Buccaneers’ starting quarterback even when Jameis Winston returns from suspension after the team’s Week 3 matchup against the Steelers.

But that may have more to do with logistics than anything else. The Week 3 game is a Monday night contest, so Rapoport suggests that the Bucs could simply keep Fitzpatrick as the starter for Week 4 rather than have Winston make his 2018 debut on a short week.

However, Rapoport does say that Fitzpatrick’s run as the Bucs’ starting signal-caller could last for as long as he is playing well, and if he continues to perform as he did in his season-opening mastery of the Saints — which resulted in NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors — that would give Tampa Bay time to ease Winston into the flow of the season.

It is important to note that the Bucs continue to view Winston as their long-term quarterback. Obviously, the veteran journeyman Fitzpatrick is no threat to dethrone Winston on a permanent basis, and Tampa Bay is excited to see what Winston can do when he does return to the field with a talented set of receivers and new play-caller Todd Monken.

Rapoport also writes that Winston’s $20.9MM fifth-year option for 2019, guaranteed for injury only, will not have any bearing on when he returns. The Bucs will not keep their former No. 1 overall pick on the shelf to avoid triggering that guarantee, and they fully intend to reinsert Winston into the starting lineup as soon as they feel it is in their best interest to do so (which may still be in Week 4).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers Unlikely To Sign Veteran QB

The Jameis Winston saga will continue to dominate NFL headlines for the foreseeable future, but life goes on for the Buccaneers, who need to determine who will give them the best chance to win in Winston’s expected absence. The team is currently rostering veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, career reserve Ryan Griffin, and 2018 UDFA Austin Allen.

That is not a particularly inspiring group, and though Fitzpatrick is expected to run the offense while Winston serves his suspension, it would make sense for the team to consider a veteran backup for the 35-year-old (36 in November) Harvard product. However, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times does not believe the Bucs will go that route (Twitter link).

Of course, the free agent crop of signal-callers does not engender much confidence either, as it features the likes of Derek Anderson, Matt Moore, and Mark Sanchez. Plus, as Florida Football Insiders observes, the team seems to have plenty of faith in Griffin, who is entering his sixth year in the league but who has yet to attempt a regular season pass.

Griffin, a former UDFA out of Tulane, has spent the last three years with Tampa Bay and therefore is plenty familiar with head coach Dirk Koetter‘s system. The team intended to give him a thorough evaluation last summer, but he got hurt early in the preseason schedule and was not fully healthy until after the first month of the regular season.

Nonetheless, the Bucs carried Griffin through to their initial 53-man roster before placing him on IR, and the fact that they have kept him around for three seasons has to mean something. Indeed, the above Florida Football Insiders piece suggests that he could challenge Fitzpatrick as Winston’s placeholder in training camp.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Bucs, Butt, Browns, Dobbs

The NFL is still investigating Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston for allegedly groping an Uber driver in 2016. It’s been seven months since an unnamed woman’s allegation surfaced, but NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said (via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times) the matter “remains under review.” Winston has long denied any wrongdoing, but even if no charges were brought, the fourth-year quarterback could face NFL discipline. The Bucs open the season with games against the Saints, Eagles and Steelers. They re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started three games last season, in preparation for this, Stroud notes, adding that they believe the 35-year-old veteran is the best option to navigate that stretch if Winston is suspended. Of course, if the Bucs go into training camp without knowing if Winston will be suspended, it could make allocating reps difficult.

As minicamp week concludes, here’s the latest news:

  • The Browns plan to slot Mychal Kendricks at weakside linebacker going into camp, per Zac Jackson of The Athletic (subscription required). Christian Kirksey played every snap at that spot last season and is signed long-term. Jackson doesn’t see him losing his job. The Browns believe Kendricks can play all three linebacker positions, but how Cleveland distributes playing time will be interesting since Jamie Collins — the league’s highest-paid off-ball linebacker — and 2017 Pro Bowler Joe Schobert are the other incumbents. It’s arguable Kendricks, long upset with his role in Philadelphia, had an easier path to playing time with the defending Super Bowl champions than he does with a team coming off an 0-16 season.
  • Excluding the 2 1/2 seasons Peyton Manning was healthy for the Broncos, the franchise has not been able to generate much from its tight end spot this decade. The Broncos, though, might have their best chance in a while to do so with one-time highly regarded prospect Jake Butt healthy. After essentially redshirting in 2017, which does not count as an accrued-service year for Butt since he spent it on Denver’s PUP list, the Michigan product could be in position to start. “He looks healthy, finally,” Vance Joseph said, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. “ … Right now, he’s totally healthy.” The Broncos have struggled for three years to generate much in the passing game outside of their two starting wideouts, but with Butt in the mix, Case Keenum figures to have more options than his immediate predecessors. Denver used a 2017 third-round pick on Carlos Henderson only to see him miss all of his rookie year, and the Broncos now have second- and fourth-round picks Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton potentially ready to fill the auxiliary pass-catcher void.
  • File this away to the what-if department: had the Buccaneers not selected O.J. Howard at No. 19 overall last year, they were “poised” to take Dalvin Cook, Stroud notes. This would have been a wildly different path for Cook, who sat on the board until the Vikings selected him at No. 41 overall. Tampa Bay instead waited a year to make a big draft investment at this position, taking Ronald Jones at No. 38 this year.
  • The SteelersMason Rudolph selection will likely leave Joshua Dobbs as the odd man out in Pittsburgh, barring injury. Pittsburgh is expected to go into the season with Ben Roethlisberger, Rudolph and Landry Jones as its three quarterbacks, Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes, leaving 2017 draftee Dobbs as either trade bait or waiver wire fodder. Jones is due $2.2MM this season but would profile as the veteran backup to complement the developing Rudolph.

Buccaneers Re-Sign Ryan Fitzpatrick

It looks like the Buccaneers are going to go with their 2017 setup at quarterback for at least one more season. Tampa Bay is expected to re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). It’s a one-year deal worth $3.3MM and up to $5.55MM through bonuses, according to Adam Caplan of SiriusXM (on Twitter). The deal includes $1.3MM in fully guaranteed money.

Fitzpatrick will return for a 14th season and a second with the Bucs.

A UFA for the third straight offseason, Fitzpatrick served as Jameis Winston‘s backup last season and made three starts. The Bucs could be forced to turn to their backup early in 2018, should the NFL opt to suspend Winston, who is under investigation because of an Uber driver’s accusation he groped her. So, this is a critical move for a Bucs power structure that could well be on the hot seat.

Tampa Bay was thought to be interested in bringing previous Winston backup Mike Glennon back to Florida, but the 35-year-old Fitzpatrick coming back would seem to call off any prospective reunion.

Fitzpatrick went 2-1 as a starter for a Bucs team that disappointed against reasonably high expectations. He completed just more than 58 percent of his passes and threw seven touchdowns compared to three interceptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.