This is part four of our Tampa Bay Buccaneer training camp preview. Today we look at the quarterbacks.
As the 2019 season approaches Jameis Winston is firmly entrenched as the starter for the 2019 season. The Bucs picked up the fifth year option on Winstons contract for a cool $21 million dollars.
Winston has the full support of head coach Bruce Arians who has stated on several occasions that having Winston as the starting quarterback was one of the key decisions that caused Arians to come out of retirement at 66 and take on the challenge of turning around the underachieving Buccaneers.
Winston is only signed for the 2019 season. Based on how Winston performs this season the Bucs will have to make a decision on wether or not to extend a second contract to Jameis Winston.
As of today, that contract could be worth $20 to $25 million dollars per season.
Winston is still young at just 25 years of age and has a lot of football ahead of him. Winston has also put up some pretty good numbers so far in his career passing for 14,628 yards while throwing 88 touchdown passes and 58 interceptions. Winston has also completed 61% of his passes.
The knock on Winston is he has a propensity for turning the ball over by trying to make a play when there is nothing available. Fumbles and interceptions have haunted Winston since he came into the league in 2015. Winston also has a reputation for hanging on to the ball too long trying to extend a play and will take a sack instead of throwing the ball away.
Arians has complete confidence that quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich can correct those tendencies in Winston’s game and help him reduce the turnovers.
Blaine Gabbert who played last season with Tennessee will be the backup quarterback. Gabbert has been in the league since 2011 and was the backup to Carson Palmer in Arizona during Palmer and Arians last season in Arizona in 2017.
In his career, Gabbert has passed for 9,063 yards completing 56% of his passes with 48 touchdowns and 47 interceptions.
Gabbert was brought in to help Winston and the quarterbacks in the room acclimate themselves to the new offense being installed by Bruce Arians.
Ryan Griffin will be back as the third string quarterback. Griffin has been in the league since 2013, and with the Buccaneers since 2015. Griffin however has yet to throw a pass in a regular season game and with the team bringing in Gabbert to back up Jameis Winston, it doesn’t look that will happen any time soon.
The quarterback on the roster that is most intriguing is a free agent from Mississippi State, Nick Fitzgerald. A three year starter at Mississippi State, Fitzgerald passed for 6,054 yards with 54 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. Fitzgerald was also a threat on the ground as he rushed for 3,504 yards with 45 touchdowns.
The Bucs are intrigued by his ability to make plays with both his legs and his arm. When you think of Fitzgerald, think how the New Orleans Saints use Taysom Hill. That is what the Bucs envision Fitzgerald can becomes, that type of player that is a threat in the air and on the ground.
Fitzgerald said during OTA’s that he will do whatever it takes to make this Bucs team and be a contributor whether it be in the return game, lining up at wide receiver or running the ball. Fitzgerald wants to help the Bucs however he can.
Most likely Fitzgerald ends up on the practice squad, but with some hard work Fitzgerald could definitely help this team out down the road.