Jameis Winston has a real chance to play again for Buccaneers this season despite benching
Tampa Bay has been very impressed with how Winston has handled his demotion
While the Bucs are disappointed in the mental mistakes that have led to Jameis Winston's benching in Tampa Bay, they have not given up on the former first-overall pick and are open to turning back to him this season.
The team has been very impressed with how Winston has handled his demotion, sources said, and believe he is working hard to try to correct the decision-making errors that have led him to turn the ball over at an alarming rate. With all they have invested in him, and with his 2019 fifth-year option guaranteed for injury only, the front office is hopeful of getting another chance to evaluate him this season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has played incredible football at times this season, including during Winston's season-opening suspension, and as long as he is playing well he is likely to remain the starter. Fitzpatrick has also struggled with turnovers throughout his long-and-winding career, however, and with the Bucs in an uphill fight to stay in the playoff race and facing a tough schedule, it stands to reason that Winston will see the field again barring an improbable second-half run. An injury to Fitzpatrick would also obviously impact Winston's status.
Regardless, Winston is not being viewed as damaged goods at this point and the team made a point to reach out to him this week to explain that they still believe he can be a quality starting quarterback in this league, sources said. The success of his selection will have major ramifications on the future of head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht, though it remains to be seen what kind of market awaits Winston in 2019, in Tampa or otherwise, as that fifth-year option carries $21M with it.
Improved play from Winston down the stretch would certainly factor into any decision, and could potentially increase his trade value as well if the team chose to go that route in 2019, though the risk of him getting hurt and triggering that $21M guaranteed payment is also real. At this point, however, that appears to be a risk they are willing to take, with open minds about Winston taking the field for them in 2018.
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