The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be looking for Tom Brady’s replacement as soon as 2023.
As noted by Dan Graziano of ESPN, the Buccaneers’ “most likely outcome” entering the 2023 season is bringing back Jameis Winston as the team’s quarterback. In this scenario, Brady either retires or goes elsewhere. Meanwhile, Winston returns after a four-year hiatus from the team.
“Jameis Winston balls out in New Orleans, Brady retires or goes elsewhere, the Saints don’t offer Winston what he wants, and the Bucs bring back their former No. 1 overall pick for a triumphant return as Brady’s successor! All right, maybe it’s not “likely,” but it’s certainly not impossible,” said Graziano on August 12.
Winston Illustrated Game-Managing Ability Last Season
Winston is currently the Saints’ starting quarterback and did an effective job as a starter before suffering a season-ending injury last season. The 28-year-old led the Saints to a 5-2 record while throwing 14 touchdowns against three interceptions. Winston’s INT percentage was at a career-best 1.9 percent, as he showed the ability to take care of the football for the first time in his career.
According to Pro Football Focus, Winston posted a 74.0 offensive grade last season, which would have ranked a respectable 18th among all starting quarterbacks.
The former No. 1 overall pick developed a reputation for his turnover-heavy play, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a single season during his last year with the Buccaneers in 2019. That hot and cold performance from Winston eventually led to his exit and the Buccaneers pursuing Tom Brady as their franchise quarterback.
It even led to then-head coach Bruce Arians publicly chastising Winston at the conclusion of the 2019 season.
“If we can win with this [quarterback], we can definitely win with another one, too,” said Arians after Winston threw a game-ending pick six in Week 16 versus the Atlanta Falcons.
Why Buccaneers Could Pursue Winston in 2023
However, with Arians no longer the head coach and Winston showing an ability to manage games, the Buccaneers may be open to a reunion.
While fans may remember Winston’s low points more than anything, he did show ability as a franchise passer early on in his career. The former No. 1 overall pick was a Pro Bowler during his rookie season after setting rookie franchise records in every major statistical category.
Winston also became the first quarterback in NFL history to begin his career with back-to-back 4,000-passing yard seasons, leading to his peers naming him the 57th top player in the Top 100 Players list of 2017.
If Winston continues to show the same ability to take care of the ball as he did last season, he likely emerges as the Buccaneers’ best option on the market. The question is, will the Saints go in a different direction?
Winston is technically under contract through the 2023 season. However, the Saints can get out of the deal with an $11.2 million dead cap hit. If Winston does perform well, but New Orleans goes absolutely nowhere, the Saints may find it beneficial to move on from the veteran quarterback.
Considering the best quarterbacks available on the free agency market next offseason are Baker Mayfield, Jimmy Garoppolo and Sam Darnold, the Buccaneers could find it feasible to pursue their former franchise quarterback.