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The Jolly Roger: What is the Bucs contingency plan at quarterback?

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A featured piece on Bucs Nation where we look at some interesting topics surrounding the Buccaneers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Let’s be real with ourselves here. If the Buccaneers really wanted to bring back Jameis Winston (and I mean really wanted to), they would have re-signed him by now. Why really? Because they wouldn’t feel that any price would be to steep to bring back their supposed franchise quarterback.

On the flip side, if Winston really wanted to return, he’d realize that betting on himself in free agency could backfire similar to how he bet on himself in 2019 before throwing 30 interceptions. Perhaps lowering his demands would also help, as the Bucs reportedly let it be known that if he doesn’t then there is no point in negotiating further. It seems like that is just an after thought.

So here we are.

Teams don’t just let their franchise quarterbacks test the free agent market. Tom Brady had previously signed extensions before the start of free agency and during the regular season. Guys like Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning have done it, too. It’s just what teams do when they know they have a franchise quarterback they can’t be without at a young age.

However, the Buccaneers are dealing with Jameis Winston, not the previously mentioned quarterbacks.

It’s not fair to compare Winston to those who have a spot ready for them in Canton when their names are called. Those quarterbacks were helped by good defenses, good running games, and consistency within the offense for the most part. We know that Winston was at a disadvantage from Day 1 with an offensive coordinator that scaled back his ability to then really enforce limitations once given the head coaching title because of fear, no help from the defense, and the inability to ever establish a trusted running game.

“But he should carry the team on his back. That’s what good quarterbacks do.” Yet, he hasn’t. But when he has, either a kicker has missed field goals or the defense couldn’t stop a third string quarterback from driving down the field. Winston has been asked to do a lot in his young career. And while he has tried to be the hero, he has shot himself in the foot plenty of times, too.

His accolades get easily overshadowed by the fumbles in previous seasons, all the interceptions last season, the off-target throws, etc. You name it, there are reasons you can easily come up with opposing a new contract just as easy as it is finding reasons why he deserves one.

It is that inconsistency that has put Tampa Bay in between a rock and a hard place. It is why they seem more than willing to let Winston test the free agent waters. And if so, I’m sure they have some sort of a fallback plan in case Winston walks.

CBS Sports just recently said bringing back Winston would be the team’s fallback plan. They listed guys like Brady, Rivers, and Teddy Bridgewater as Options 1, 2, and 3 for the Bucs. Even had Marcus Mariota listed ahead of Winston, who sat at the eighth spot — their last resort.

Ouch.

Bridgewater seems to be the most logical option. At 27 years old, you don’t have many quarterbacks who can come in and play right away while taking care of the football with years left to play. While a guy like Brady would certainly sell a few more season tickets, what does getting one, maybe two years out of an aging veteran really do for them for the long run? I mean, you can draft a quarterback to learn under him but does that guarantee success for the future?

They listed others, like Nick Foles and Andy Dalton. But those also aren’t shoe-in success stories.

Where does that leave the Bucs? Do you get yourself an aged rental? Sign a younger veteran? Bring back that guy that provides so many highs as well as so many lows? Or do you make a move to draft a quarterback high to become a Day 1 starter?

Whatever the Bucs are planning and discussing behind closed doors will soon come to light. They just better hope they get it right.