The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished dead-last in the NFC South for a second straight season and fired head coach Dirk Koetter, but they're not prepared to make a drastic change at the most important player position.
On Monday, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht told reporters that Jameis Winston will remain this team's quarterback in 2019, thus shutting down any speculation that they'd release the 2015 first overall pick.
"Jameis Winston will be here," Licht said, according to Kevin Patra of NFL.com. "We have him under contract for a year. He has done some amazing things for a young -- 24, turns 25 in a week -- quarterback that has accomplished more than most of the elite quarterbacks...Jameis will be here next year."
Winston was suspended for the first three games of 2018 over an alleged groping incident with an Uber driver. He and career journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick alternated the starting duties throughout the season, but Winston finished out 2018 as the starter.
The 24-year-old Winston finished with 2,992 passing yards and 19 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. Winston reportedly clashed with head coach Dirk Koetter in the past, but with the latter being replaced this offseason, perhaps the young quarterback will finally piece it together in his contract year.
Given Winston's off-the-field troubles and inconsistent play over the two years, many wondered if the Buccaneers would look to find a new franchise quarterback. But Winston's strong play down the stretch - including 300-yard games in Weeks 16 and 17 - suggests that it might be too early to give up on him.
As Licht pointed out, Winston is still young and has reached plenty of impressive feats in his career. He and wide receiver Mike Evans have formed one of the game's top offensive duos, and the goal will be to help build around these two players.
What This Means
It's been a frustrating time for the Buccaneers, who have now gone 11 straight years without making the playoffs. Winston hasn't been as consistent as they'd hope for, but he's shown the ability to be a true franchise building block.
With the right coach and a few more additions on both sides of the ball, the Bucs could return to relevance in 2019.