Two events have altered the landscape since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the routine decision to exercise their 2019 contract option for quarterback Jameis Winston. The NFL's three-game suspension of Winston was one. Ryan Fitzpatrick's record-setting run of three consecutive 400-yard passing games during Winston's suspension is the other.
This one-two punch has shaken assumptions that Winston would return to the starting lineup following his suspension and then sign a long-term extension before, during or after playing the 2019 season on his fifth-year option salary of $20.9 million.
"It is not a situation where there is a clear-cut right thing to do," an exec from another team said. "It is a hard one -- a dilemma with a lot of variables."
Here we lay out a plan for the Bucs that addresses whether Winston should reclaim his starting job upon returning from suspension in Week 4, whether the team should bring back Winston on his $20.9 million salary for next season, and whether the team should enter into a long-term extension with him. Execs around the league are not unanimous in their suggestions, but one path forward makes more sense than the others.