Winston said he will play at 250 pounds in 2019, Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times reports. Winston was 231 pounds at the 2015 combine and has been listed at that same weight throughout his NFL career, though he's looked a bit heavier at times. He'll focus on adding muscle this offseason, perhaps preparing to take more hits under new coach Bruce Arians, who has a reputation for emphasizing downfield passing even if there's a trade-off in terms of sacks or interceptions. It's an approach that should be familiar, as Tampa Bay had the most passing yards (5,125) and interceptions (26) in the league last season. Ryan Fitzpatrick was largely responsible for those drastic numbers, but Winston also contributed by ranking 10th in yards per attempt (7.9) and 31st in interception rate (3.7 percent) out of 33 qualified passers. The Buccaneers have lost Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson this offseason, but they still retain plenty of firepower with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate (hip) and Breshad Perriman. The 25-year-old quarterback may be looking at his last chance in Tampa Bay, where he's signed through 2019 via the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said Winston will be back with the team in 2019, Greg Auman of The Athletic reports. Winston finished out his fourth NFL season in good health, allowing the Bucs to drop the fifth-year option on his contract if they'd rather have an extra $20.9 million in cap space. He may not have played well enough to warrant a long-term extension, but it's hard to see how the team would find an upgrade for 2019. Licht is probably hoping to pair Winston with a draft pick, as 36-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and should be able to find high-end backup money from another team. Licht will need to outline his plan at quarterback in order to attract a desirable replacement for fired head coach Dirk Koetter. The team has no shortage of playmakers on offense, with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate all signed through at least 2020, while DeSean Jackson likely will be released and slot receiver Adam Humphries can become an unrestricted free agent in March.
Winston completed 22 of 35 passes for 345 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in the Buccaneers' 34-32 loss to the Falcons on Sunday. He also rushed twice for 23 yards. With reports emerging earlier Sunday that the team planned to bring him back as its starting quarterback in 2019, Winston promptly went out and put together one of his best performances of the season. The four-year veteran's quartet of passing scores equaled a season high, while his yardage total served as his third-best figure of 2018. Winston finishes his abbreviated 2018 campaign with five 300-yard passing efforts overall, but he now faces an offseason of uncertainty from a coaching perspective. Head coach Dirk Koetter could well be on his way out after another non-playoff campaign, and his exit would mean Winston would be learning a new offensive system heading into 2019.
Winston will return as the Buccaneers' starting quarterback in 2019, according to Adam Schefter on ESPN Sunday Countdown. Due to a combination of uneven play and off-the-field concerns in his first three campaigns, Winston was a question mark to return to the only home he's known as a professional. Ryan Fitzpatrick's scorching start to the season during Winston's three-game suspension didn't do the latter any favors. However, Winston has settled into a nice groove since Week 11, completing 64.6 percent of his passes, throwing for 300-plus yards twice, and recording nine touchdowns versus three interceptions over the last six games. He also tacked on 149 rushing yards at 5.3 YPC during that span. The preceding has been enough for the Buccaneers to roll with Winston and his team option for 2019.
Winston may not play all of the Buccaneers' offensive snaps in Week 17 against the Falcons after coach Dirk Koetter said Monday that the team would like to get backup quarterback Ryan Griffin his first NFL regular-season reps in the contest, Eduardo A. Encina of the Tampa Bay Times reports. "The guy's been here for three years," Koetter said of Griffin. "He's worked his tail off." Koetter didn't expound on what Griffin's workload might look like if he enters the game, but based on the coach's comments, it's likely the 29-year-old would only take the field for a brief cameo. It would amount to a token gesture of gratitude for a player who has spent the bulk of six professional seasons on either the New Orleans or Tampa Bay rosters without officially making his NFL debut. With that in mind, Griffin's potential usage might only be a minor hindrance on Winston's fantasy outlook, as the Buccaneers are still incentivized to roll with the latter behind center in the season finale with his place in the team's plans for 2019 not yet formally decided. Assuming he indeed handles the overwhelming majority of the snaps, Winston projects as a respectable option in both season-long and DFS lineups while taking on an Atlanta defense that has yielded a 68.4 percent completion rate (28th in NFL) and 29 touchdown throws (tied for 24th) to opposing passers.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|1||09/08||San Francisco 49ers||29||22.88|
|3||09/22||New York Giants||13||18.75|
|4||09/29||@Los Angeles Rams||17||19.63|
|5||10/06||@New Orleans Saints||28||22.78|
|11||11/17||New Orleans Saints||28||22.78|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||62.8||3529||22||14||194||1||262|