Bucs head coach Bruce Arians took questions from the national media at the podium on Tuesday in Indianapolis, then briefly met with the local writers to discuss the future of quarterback Jameis Winston, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next month.
But if anyone was expecting any definitive decision being revealed at the NFL Combine, they will have to keep waiting a little longer.
“We haven’t made that decision yet,” Arians said. “It is still up in the air.”
The Bucs haven’t ruled out keeping Winston, but are clearly keeping their options open.
Arians was asked what improvements he saw from Winston from the start of the season until his final game against the Falcons. Winston finished the season passing for a team-record 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns, but also led the league with 30 interceptions, including an NFL-record seven pick-sixes.
“I thought he progressed – (but) I would have hoped to have seen more,” Arians said. “Some of those mistakes in the last three or four games game – I would have liked to have seen erased. And hopefully they will be.”
Arians called Winston, who is entering a sixth year, “an unknown quantity, and was also asked about his comfort level with Winston as the Bucs quarterback.
“Oh yeah I feel fine, some things can be corrected,” said Arians, who also said that Winston had a disappointing December when he threw 10 of his 30 INTs in the final four games.
Following the season finale, Arians said part of the evaluation and decision on Winston’s return to Tampa Bay would come after seeing what other options are available in free agency and the NFL Draft. Arians reiterated that on Tuesday.
“It’s amazing because you really don’t know who’s available until the [franchise] tags come out [March 12], and then you’ll know,” Arians said. “Then it’s a short window to talk to somebody. The legal tampering period, you don’t really know if the guy’s going to be on the market. All these quarterbacks out there, I think maybe two or three will be out there.
“It is really no different than any other position. But quarterback is really the premiere position. So you never thought you’d see a [Tom] Brady and [Drew] Brees names out there. And Drew is not really out there. What is (behind) door number 2?”
Bucs general manager Jason Licht would not rule out using the franchise tag on Winston, indicating that all options were on the table. Licht also agreed with Arians in that the Bucs will explore their options at the quarterback spot in what is a very unique year at the position in free agency.
Licht also said he would like to draft a quarterback this year, but not necessarily in the first round, indicating that QBs typically don’t win in their first year.
“He could be, he could be,” Arians said.
“When I know who else is available. We should know a lot next week.”
Following his appearance on the podium, Arians met with local reporters for a few minutes but didn’t really reveal anything new. But he did say there is definitely one quarterback he would pick up the phone for if he were to become available.
When asked about Philip Rivers, who is moving on from the Chargers organization, Arians said: “That’s another guy. We’ll see.”