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.
New offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich confirmed Winston will be the Buccanners' starting quarterback in 2019, Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times reports.
Leftwich said he and Winston will be "connected at the hip" throughout the process of implementing head coach Bruce Arians' vertical offense. The 39-year-old is expected to get his second shot as an NFL play-caller, after taking over in Arizona when Mike McCoy was fired midway through the 2018 campaign. Despite some initial improvement, Leftwich ultimately was unable to turn things around in the desert, faced with the limitations of a rookie quarterback playing behind an atrocious offensive line. The situation in Tampa Bay is vastly superior, albeit far from perfect. Winston's strong arm and aggressive nature make him a natural fit working with Arians/Leftwich, but there's still a lot of work to be done when it comes to ball security and establishing a running game. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard (ankle) will be back in 2019 to lead the Tampa Bay receiving corps, while Adam Humphries, DeSean Jackson (Achilles/finger) and Cameron Brate (hip) all face uncertain futures. Meanwhile, the 25-year-old quarterback is signed for just one more season under the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.
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.
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 on the season. 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.
Due to a combination of uninspiring 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.
|2015||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||16||535||312||58.3||4042||7.56||68||22||15||27/190||57||9||84.2|
|2016||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||16||567||345||60.8||4090||7.21||45||28||18||35/239||43||4||86.1|
|2017||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||13||13||442||282||63.8||3504||7.93||70||19||11||33/207||32||5||92.2|
|2018||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||11||9||378||244||64.6||2992||7.92||64||19||14||27/157||34||6||90.2|
|2015||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||16||54||213||3.9||21||6||2||18|
|2016||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||16||53||165||3.1||14||1||0||10|
|2017||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||13||13||33||135||4.1||17||1||0||7|
|2018||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||11||9||49||281||5.7||18||1||0||18|
|2015||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||2||2.0||0||0||0||0||0.0||0||0||0|
|2016||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||1||1.0||0||0||0||0||0.0||0||0||0|
|2017||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||13||2||2.0||0||0||0||0||0.0||0||0||0|
|2018||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||11||3||3.0||0||0||0||0||0.0||0||0||0|
|Year||Team||G||Fum||Lost||Fum Forced||Own Rec||Opp Rec||Yds||Tot Rec||TD|
|2015||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||6||2||0||4||0||0||4||0|
|2016||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||10||6||0||3||0||0||3||0|
|2017||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||13||15||7||0||7||0||0||7||0|
|2018||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||11||7||3||0||2||0||0||2||0|