James Winston will be sticking around in Tampa for a little while longer. The Buccaneers picked up the fifth-year option on Winston's rookie contract, according to a report from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
Winston is headed into the final season of his rookie deal, having progressed in fits and starts since the Bucs made him the No. 1 pick in the draft back in 2015. He has struggled with turnovers throughout his career, but he did cut down on them in 2017. However, the Tampa offense as a whole took a step backward, and Winston's injuries, inconsistency, and lack of deep accuracy played a role in that downturn.
Winston missed three games due to a shoulder injury during the 2017 season, and he played in obvious discomfort in several others. He saw his performance drop off sharply against blitzes and pressure, and he failed to develop chemistry with DeSean Jackson, who was supposed to provide a new element of deep speed to the team's offense.
In addition, Winston was the subject of an NFL investigation into an Ronald Darby, came to his defense as well. Winston said Monday that he still has yet to be contacted by the NFL in its investigation., who stated that Winston groped her crotch during a 2016 ride in Arizona. Winston denied the allegations through his agent, and his former college teammate,
"I know the NFL has a process that they have to go through and I respect that process. It's not my job to speculate on that process," he said, per ESPN.com. "My focus has been with this organization, getting the guys back in here and focusing what we can do to become a better team this offseason."
Because Winston's fifth-year option is guaranteed only for injury, the Bucs will still be able to release him with no cap penalty if the NFL finds wrongdoing in the case and the team elects to cut ties. The Bucs have been fairly steadfast in their support of Winston over the years, and team co-chairman Joe Glazer recently responded "absolutely not" when asked if the allegations changed the team's perception of Winston.
"Jameis Winston that has been on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since the day we drafted him has been a model in the community, a model in the locker room," Glazer said. "All we can do is focus on the offseason and doing what we can control, and I know Jameis is working hard and doing all the things he does -- not only preparing for the season, but in the community and off the field, and being the person he's been since we've drafted him."
The Bucs subsequently picked up a nearly $21 million option, so they seem fairly confident that he will be cleared in the NFL's investigation.