Jameis Winston's expected suspension hurts, but Bucs have backup plan

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The Bucs were cautiously optimistic all offseason but knew Winston could face discipline following an investigation into his alleged groping of a female Uber driver, and they secured insurance by re-signing Fitzpatrick in March before he could test free agency.

The 14-year veteran, who first signed with the Bucs last offseason, won two of three starts for them in 2017 when Winston suffered a sprained AC joint in the right shoulder of his throwing arm. Fitzpatrick knows their system, and players and coaches see him as a steadying force -- not only for Winston, but also their offense. In fact, quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian didn't think there was much of a drop-off from Winston to Fitzpatrick.official nfl jerseys cheap

Winston's suspension doesn't just impact his availability for games in 2018, but possibly his future with the organization. The Bucs have fully supported him, both publicly and privately, up until this point. Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer told ESPN back in March that the league's investigation did not change his perception of Winston whatsoever. He lauded Winston for his work ethic, leadership and contributions off the field.51

"The Jameis Winston that has been on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since the day we drafted him has been a model in the community, a model in the locker room," Glazer told ESPN in March. "He's the first guy in the building, the last guy to leave the building, playing through pain, with injuries most people probably wouldn't play for. So he's done everything we were drawing up on the drawing board as our quarterback and the person we drafted."

The Bucs furthered their support by picking up the fifth-year option on his contract for $21 million, and all signs have still pointed to him getting a new deal in line with what the top quarterbacks in the league are making, which is in excess of $100 million. But additional fact-finding from the league's investigation could always change that equation.

For the first three games, the Bucs will rely on Fitzpatrick, who completed 96 of 163 passes last season, throwing for 1,103 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He showed that he can take what the defense gives him, checking down instead of taking unnecessary risks by going for the big play downfield. He threw for 187 yards and a touchdown in a 15-10 win against the New York Jets in Week 10, stopping a five-game losing streak. nfl authentic jerseys cheap He followed that up with a 30-20 win on the road against the Miami Dolphins in Week 11, throwing two touchdown passes and calmly setting up a game-winning field goal by Patrick Murray with seven seconds left. On that final drive, Fitzpatrick completed 3 of 5 passing attempts, hitting Mike Evans for a 17-yard pass and then-rookie Chris Godwin for 14- and 24-yard pickups before giving way to Murray.

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