Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If Buccaneers clean house, will Jameis Winston be wanted?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may plan to keep Jameis Winston heading into next year, but would a new head coach or general manager follow suit?

As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers end another disappointing season on Sunday the future of head coach Dirk Koetter, and to a lesser degree that of general manager Jason Licht, is up in the air. The status of quarterback Jameis Winston is also a big question, with a fifth-year option guaranteed for injury in 2019. But according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Buccaneers intend to bring back the former No. 1 overall pick next year.

Winston started this season with a three-game suspension, then took the starting job back when Ryan Fitzpatrick’s “FitzMagic” inevitably faded. He was benched in favor of Fitzpatrick, then took the starting job back again a few weeks later. Overall Winston has started eight games this season and played in 10, throwing for over 2,600 yards with 15 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a career-best 64.7 percent completion rate. Over five starts in the second run this year as the No. 1 guy, Winston has thrown just two interceptions in 179 pass attempts.

Koetter has sounded like a man who knows he’s almost done as Buccaneers’ head coach this week. A search for a new head coach seemed sure to run parallel with deeper questions about who Tampa Bay’s quarterback next year. But as Greg Auman of The Athletic pointed out, Winston’s $20.9 million option would be on the lower end of the cost to replace him with any expectation of having someone better.

A plan on Dec. 30 can easily become an official decision to part with Winston by early March. A new head coach and/or general manager would surely have a prominent part in that decision, one way or the other, and based purely on an inconsistent level of play during his career Winston is still a question mark as a franchise quarterback.

Assuming Koetter is fired, the Buccaneers have essentially let it out that head coach candidates have to be comfortable with Winston as the starting quarterback next year or come with a compelling case not to keep him. There’s no commitment beyond that, but if taking the job in Tampa Bay comes with Winston as a package deal, that feels like an unnecessary and preemptive limitation on the search.

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