Tom Brady to Buccaneers: Bruce Arians reaching out to teams about Jameis Winston, but sending mixed signals

So, Bruce Arians, which is it? Is Jameis Winston a high-potential quarterback who deserves to be a starter in the NFL, or is he a mistake-prone gunslinger only worthy to be someone’s third option — at best? These are the questions general managers around the league are likely wondering after hearing mixed signals emanate from within the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as it relates to their view on the 26-year-old QB. Arians himself is doing his best to help Winston land a new job somewhere, but thus far his efforts have been unsuccessful.

Winston remains an unrestricted free agent garnering so little interest there is nothing being reported about any team having looked in his direction. Virtually all of the starting quarterback positions in the league have been filled, save for the Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots, but Winston finds himself now competing with former league MVP Cam Newton for a job.

It’s quite likely Newton will secure one of those spots, but that doesn’t mean Winston will secure the other. He’s not-so-quietly being seen now as a backup option for teams, which is a precipitous fall from grace for the former first-overall pick. The mixed signals Arians is sending aren’t exactly helping Winston’s value on the open market, so while he’s already reached out to at least two teams in an attempt to get Winston re-employed, some of the things he’s saying publicly cut those efforts off at the knees.

One example of this is in how — during an interview on The Rich Eisen Show following the official signing of Tom Brady — the Buccaneers head coach revealed just how much he adores Winston, so much so the young QB wasn’t even Tampa Bay’s second option this offseason.

“I called a couple teams [and told them] you’re going to get one of the hardest workers you’ve ever had, and a great young man,” he said. “It didn’t work out for us only because Tom Brady was available, and we had Teddy Bridgewater if that hadn’t worked out — we were going full steam back with Jameis. He’s a great young man and nobody’s going to outwork him.”

It’s wholly understandable why a six-time Super Bowl winner and arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game would be the first option, but while Bridgewater truly does deserve to get another shot at being a starter, the fact the latter was ranked higher than an in-house Winston speaks volumes about how Arians and general manager truly feel about him. For if Winston isn’t even good enough to be the second option for the team he’s been with since 2015, it’s difficult to fathom any club lending Arians a worthy ear when he begins talking about work ethic.

It truly does come across as a hollow sell, because either Winston is a race car that needs the right driver or he’s a lemon — Arians himself seeming unsure of which while trying to do his best used car salesman bit.

“I think it was that regression in those last two ball games after he had made such good progress,” Arians said. “You don’t throw for 5,100 [yards] and 30 touchdowns and not have any talent. Those numbers are amazing themselves, but those turnovers in December made us [wonder] if there’s something better behind door No. 2.” 

In actuality, to Arians’ own admission, they looked behind doors No. 2 and No. 3, and are thankful Brady was standing behind the first and waving back at them with a gleeful smile; but the damage has been done to Winston’s value. So when Arians says he has reached out to teams in one interview but then in another says the Bucs lacked leadership at the position, it’s hard to buy anything he’s pitching. 

“We obviously have some weapons,” he told ESPN’s NFL Live. “We’ve been a pretty good offensive football team. We needed to have a leader, and that’s what excited me most. Having a leader come in here who the guys know is a winner and has done it, and they’ll follow him.”

So to summarize, in Arians’ view, Winston is a third option at best who works really, really hard but has regressed and isn’t the leader he wants on his team. For Winston’s sake, it might be better if Arians just focuses on Brady going forward, and Brady alone.

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