Fitzpatrick said Monday that he isn't considering retirement and hopes to sign with a team when he becomes a free agent in March, Nick Veronica of The Buffalo News reports. Fitzpatrick, who turned 35 years old in November, was serviceable in his six games (three starts) with the Buccaneers in 2017, completing 58.9 percent of his passes for 1,103 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. The Buccaneers' decision to retain head coach Dirk Koetter should improve Fitzpatrick's chances of returning to Tampa Bay in 2018 as the backup to Jameis Winston, who is still viewed as the team's franchise signal caller despite his failure to take a dramatic leap forward in his third NFL season.
Fitzpatrick completed 96 of 163 passes (58.9 completion percentage) for 1,103 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions across six games in 2017. He also rushed 15 times for 78 yards. The 35-year-old was inked last offseason expressly for the scenario he was ultimately deployed in, namely, to spell starter Jameis Winston in the event of injury. Fitzpatrick led the Buccaneers to a 2-1 record over the three full games he started in Weeks 10-12 when Winston succumbed to a nagging shoulder problem, compiling 745 yards in those contests. He actually generated his most productive effort during Week 6 emergency duty, completing 22 of 32 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions over two-plus quarters of play against the Cardinals, a game that marked the onset of Winston's aforementioned health issues. Having played in 2017 on a one-year, $3 million contract, Fitzpatrick certainly made a case to be brought back next season, although a myriad of factors -- including salary, potential personnel moves and the quarterback's own desire to continue playing -- figure to play a part in whether a return comes to fruition.
Fitzpatrick will reprise his backup role in Sunday's game against the Packers with head coach Dirk Koetter naming Jameis Winston (shoulder) the team's Week 13 starter, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Fitzpatrick proved adequate while starting in place of the injured Winston the last three games, leading the Buccaneers to a 2-1 record while completing 57.4 percent of his passes to the tune of 745 yards, three touchdowns and only one turnover. With Winston turning in a full practice and taking every rep with the first team Wednesday, there's apparently no lingering concern about the health of his throwing shoulder, so the 2015 No. 1 overall pick is expected to start each of the Bucs' final five contests of the season.
Fitzpatrick completed 27 of 44 passes for 283 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions in Sunday's 34-20 loss to the Falcons. He also rushed twice for 20 yards. Although he couldn't get his team into the end zone through the air, Fitzpatrick once again showed good command of the offense, connecting with eight different pass catchers along the way. He continued to lean heavily on the starting wideout duo of Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson (14 receptions on 23 targets for 138 yards combined), but he also once again made good use of rookie tight end O.J. Howard, connecting with the 2017 first-round pick on three occasions for 52 yards. Fitzpatrick has proven aptly capable of leading the Buccaneers in place of Jameis Winston during the latter's shoulder injury, but his starting tenure could well come to an end if Winston is deemed healthy enough to start a Week 13 road tilt against the Packers.
Fitzpatrick will make another start Week 12 in Atlanta, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports. Jameis Winston (shoulder) was re-evaluated Monday and ruled out for at least one more game. The Bucs don't have much incentive to rush their franchise quarterback back into action, as the team isn't really in the playoff picture even after Fitzpatrick engineered victories the past two weeks. He was impressive in Sunday's 30-20 win over the Dolphins, completing 22 of 37 passes for 275 yards, with two touchdowns and no turnovers against a lifeless defense. Fitzpatrick likely will face more of a challenge in Week 12 against an Atlanta team that still has playoff hopes.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
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