Tagged in: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New Orleans Saints bring back QB Jameis Winston on 1-year deal worth up to $12 million

Quarterback Jameis Winston now has a chance to become Drew Brees’ successor with the New Orleans Saints.

Just one day after Brees revealed his retirement, Winston and the Saints reached agreement on a one-year deal worth up to $12 million, a league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The former No. 1 overall NFL draft pick and Heisman Trophy winner spent his first five seasons as a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, before signing a one-year deal in New Orleans last summer to try to revive his career as the Saints’ backup.

Although Winston played sparingly, the Saints were impressed enough to bring him back to compete with Taysom Hill for the starting job this year.

Sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that the Chicago Bears were serious suitors for Winston in Monday’s free-agency process before he picked the Saints.

The Saints will have to carve out a bit more salary-cap space before the beginning of the new league year on Wednesday. They started the offseason nearly $100 million over the cap but had whittled that figure down to around $10 million by the start of this week.

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Winston, who turned 27 in January, went 28-42 as a starter with Tampa, completing 61.3% of his passes with 19,737 yards, 121 touchdowns and 88 interceptions. He displayed some dynamic highs and lows during that tenure — especially in 2019. That year, he led the league with 5,109 passing yards but also became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in the same season.

Turnovers have been Winston’s biggest hurdle, with a league-high total of 111 from 2015 to 2019.

When the Buccaneers elected to move on to Tom Brady, Winston decided to try to revive his career in New Orleans. He signed a one-year deal worth just $1.1 million plus incentives because he said he wanted to get a “Harvard education in quarterback school” under coach Sean Payton and Brees.

Winston didn’t get much on-field experience in New Orleans behind Brees and Hill. But Winston did make his best play of the season when he completed a 56-yard touchdown pass on a trick play in the Saints’ playoff loss to his former team. Winston was 7-of-11 for 75 yards in the regular season with no touchdowns or turnovers.

Payton made it clear after the season that the Saints wanted to re-sign Winston and let him compete with Hill for the starting job following Brees’ retirement. Payton stated Winston was “fantastic as a leader” in addition to his arm talent.

Winston was suspended for the first three matches of the 2018 season after an eight-month NFL investigation ended that he engaged in detrimental conduct in March 2016 by touching a female Uber driver “in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent.” A settlement was reached in a separate lawsuit.

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Kansas City Chiefs’ Sammy Watkins optimistic about playing in Super Bowl

Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins stated he is optimistic about playing in Super Bowl LV on Sunday versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after missing both previous playoff games because of a calf injury.

“Feeling great,” Watkins said Tuesday. “Still working out with the training staff and [athletic trainer Rick Burkholder], just going over everything so I can have a chance and possibly go out there and feel 100% or 95% or 85%, wherever I get at by Sunday. Feeling pretty good, very optimistic. Been having good practices.”

Watkins also missed six games during the regular season. He was fifth on the Chiefs with 37 receptions, 421 yards and two touchdowns.

In the final campaign of his contract, Watkins said he would listen if the team would like to re-sign him because he values winning and playing in Super Bowls over personal stats and money.

“I would say, let’s win this Super Bowl and see where my head will be at,” Watkins said. “It would definitely be something to think about. It would definitely be something I would talk to my wife and my kids about, to think about coming back. Would I love a third ring? For sure.

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“I would definitely not say no about it. … To come back and win a third one? Yeah. I don’t mind. I would definitely have to sit and think about it, see what my future holds.”

Watkins’ return would add another dimension to a dynamic Chiefs offense, led by last year’s Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

“You never see him get rattled… You just see the calm guy that’s kind of like controlling the game,” Watkins said of his quarterback. “I think that’s what has taken this offense to a whole different level… I think we have an offense that understands now, if we just do the little things right, we can’t be stopped.”

The Chiefs punched their ticket to their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance with a 38-24 victory over the Bills in the AFC Championship game.

The Bills traded up to get Watkins with the fourth overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.  The team traded Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, along with a 2018 sixth-round draft pick, in exchange for a 2018 second-round pick and cornerback E.J. Gaines, who opted out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic and was released by the Bills in January.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Bruce Arians won’t retire even with Super Bowl win

Even if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win it all in Super Bowl LV, coach Bruce Arians stated there is no way he will consider retirement, despite already having retired once, after the 2017 season with the Arizona Cardinals.

“Hell no. I’m going for two,” Arians told 95.3 WDAE on Wednesday morning. “There’s no doubt. If the Glazers will have me back, I’ll be back.”

Arians has a five-year contract, but when he took the Buccaneers job during the 2019 offseason, many close to the 68-year-old coach questioned whether he would make it through the duration of his deal. Some had suggested he would coach three years before retiring for good.

But son Jake Arians told ESPN, “He’s having the time of his life.” Bruce Arians has dealt with several health issues over the past 15 years. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, had skin cancer cells removed from his nose in 2013, and has been rushed to the hospital — in August 2016 thinking he had a kidney stone and in November 2016 with chest pains.

He was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, a type of cancer affecting the kidneys, and had to have part of his kidney removed in 2017.

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But being able to delegate more has lowered his stress levels. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich has handled playcalling duties during Arians’ entire time in Tampa Bay, whereas Arians called plays himself in Arizona. He continues to get checkups and has had a clean bill of health.

He still has his sense of humor, which helps too.

Asked what he would have said if general manager Jason Licht had told him prior to his joining the team in 2019 that the Buccaneers would be in the Super Bowl in two years and would have Tom Brady as their quarterback, Arians said, “What are you smoking or drinking? And get me some.”

Arians did, however, express disappointment about Leftwich not getting any head-coaching interviews. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles interviewed with the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles and had some preliminary discussions with the Detroit Lions, though both sides decided it was best to cancel the interview.

“That really pissed me off, I’ll be honest with ya,” Arians said of Leftwich not getting interviews. “The job he’s done — he coaches quarterbacks, he calls plays, he’s everything everybody says they’re looking for — I was really hoping he’d get his first few interviews and maybe get a job out of it. But I can’t speak to what the owners think and who they listen to sometimes. But it’s just a matter of time before he gets his.”

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Chiefs’ Le’Veon Bell, Sammy Watkins and Buccaneers’ Antonio Brown, Antoine Winfield Jr. expected to play in Super Bowl

Several injured players for the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are expected to be healthy for Super Bowl LV.

Chiefs running back Le’Veon Bell (knee) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf), as well as the Bucs duo of wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle), are all likely to be ready for Feb. 7, sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini.

All four missed their conference championship games Sunday. Watkins played in 10 games for the Chiefs in the regular season. He was out earlier in the season with a sore hamstring and later with a calf injury, and he did not play in either of the Chiefs’ previous postseason games.

Watkins concluded the regular season fifth on the Chiefs with 37 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns.

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Bell joined the Chiefs in October after he was released by the New York Jets. Since his arrival, he has had a lesser impact for the Chiefs than had been expected.

After the Chiefs lost Clyde Edwards-Helaire for a stretch, they passed over Bell and made Darrel Williams their featured back in a Week 16 game versus the Falcons and in the divisional-round playoff game against the Browns. During the regular season, Bell rushed for 254 yards in nine games for the Chiefs.

Winfield suffered an ankle injury in practice last Thursday and missed Friday’s practice.

He still flew to Green Bay with the team, but after he tested his ankle out in warm-ups, it was deemed the best course of action for him to sit out the match.

Brown, who led the Bucs in targets the final five weeks of the regular season, suffered a knee injury in the divisional game against the New Orleans Saints. He did not practice last week, nor did he make the trip to Green Bay, as the team felt he wasn’t as far along as it had hoped in his recovery and thought a plane ride could cause further swelling. Brown caught a 36-yard touchdown in the wild-card game against Washington.

The Bucs’ other starting safety, Jordan Whitehead, who forced two fumbles, left Sunday’s victory over the Packers with a shoulder injury and did not return.

Whitehead underwent an MRI on Monday, but sources told ESPN’s Jenna Laine that it’s too soon to tell whether he’ll be able to play in the Super Bowl and that they’re taking it one day at a time to see how it goes.

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Kansas City Chiefs LT Eric Fisher out for Super Bowl LV with torn Achilles

Left tackle Eric Fisher will not play for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after he tore his Achilles tendon in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

The Chiefs shifted right tackle Mike Remmers to Fisher’s spot after he left Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, and Remmers is the likely starter at left tackle against the Bucs, who concluded the regular season tied for fourth in sacks with 48.

The Bucs have seven sacks in their three playoff games, including five Sunday in their NFC Championship Game victory over the Green Bay Packers.

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The Chiefs have had to dig deep into their offensive line depth this season.

They will play versus the Bucs with three starting offensive linemen out with injuries, including both starting tackles (right tackle Mitchell Schwartz has been sidelined since Week 6 with a back injury).

The Chiefs also had one starter, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and one backup, Lucas Niang, opt out before the start of training camp.

Duvernay-Tardif missed all of 2020 as he, a medical school graduate, returned to Canada to assist with COVID-19 relief and treatment in the medical field.

“They’re talented guys,” Reid said when asked how the offensive line has been able to hold up well through so much depletion. “In some cases we’ve had some young guys step in and … we’ve had some older guys step in. That combination has been able to get us through some games here. Most of all, I think the quarterback trusts them, as do the running backs.”

Fisher started 15 regular-season games for the Chiefs, then both playoff games. He was named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career.

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San Francisco 49ers signing Josh Rosen to back up C.J. Beathard

Whether or not he wanted to make a modification at quarterback, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has no choice but to turn to third-stringer C.J. Beathard for Saturday’s game versus the Arizona Cardinals.

That’s because Beathard is the only healthy quarterback on the active roster. Desperate for a quarterback to back him up, the 49ers are signing Josh Rosen off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Field Yates.

Beathard’s return to the starting lineup comes almost a year to the day after his brother Clayton was stabbed to death outside a bar in Nashville, Tennessee.

“To go through what he did last year and then to go right into quarantine and to come right to us with the season, I know it’s been a huge challenge for him,” Shanahan said. “And I’m excited he’s going to get an opportunity this week. I have got as much respect for C.J. as anyone I’ve ever been with as a person and as a player, and it’s going to be fun working with him this week.”

Shanahan stated Tuesday that quarterback Nick Mullens is dealing with a right elbow injury that could require Tommy John surgery and will cost him the final two games of the campaign. Team doctors are waiting for the swelling to go down in Mullens’ elbow before determining the severity of the injury and what surgery will be required.

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Complicating matters was Tuesday’s news that practice squad quarterback Josh Johnson has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, with a source telling ESPN’s Adam Schefter that he tested positive for the virus.

That means he can’t be activated in time for Saturday’s game.

And while the Niners opened the 21-day practice window for starter Jimmy Garoppolo to return from the high ankle sprain that landed him on injured reserve, it’s unlikely that Garoppolo will play in either of the final two matches.

“Right now, he’s safe to go out to practice, which we’re only having a walk-through today, but it will be fun for him to throw the ball around a little bit,” Shanahan said. “But we’re going to be very safe with him this week. We’ll see next week, but I’d be very surprised if that changes.”

Because of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols that require players to go through a six-day testing period before they can be activated, the Niners can’t sign a quarterback off the street, leaving them with just the option of signing a quarterback off another team’s practice squad.

Rosen was taken by the Cardinals with the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft and traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2019 as Arizona selected Kyler Murray No. 1 overall.

The Dolphins released Rosen in September and he was later signed by the Bucs for their practice squad. Rosen has made 16 career starts and appeared in 20 regular-season games overall, throwing for 2,845 yards with 12 touchdowns and 19 interceptions while completing 54.8% of his pass attempts.

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Antonio Brown signs one year contract with Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Antonio Brown has another team and another shot at playing in the NFL.

Brown, who is serving an eight-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, officially signed a one-year deal with the Bucs Tuesday.

The deal is worth up to $2.5 million but is heavily weighted with incentives and no guaranteed money.

Brown is going through COVID-19 protocol, can attend meetings and work with strength and conditioning coaches. He is eligible to initiate practicing with the team when his suspension ends Nov. 3. Brown will earn a base salary of $750,000 and has $250,000 in per game roster bonuses.

He also has three, $250,000 performance bonuses he could reach for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. But those performance incentives are only payable if the Bucs reach the playoffs.

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In addition, there is a $750,000 bonus for winning the Super Bowl.

The Bucs are Brown’s third team since 2018.

He was traded from the Steelers to the Raiders for two draft picks but never played a match for them. A series of mishaps and unexcused absences led Jon Gruden’s team to release him.

Brown played one game with the New England Patriots with Tom Brady last campaign, catching five passes for 56 yards and a touchdown in a rout over Miami.

But the Patriots cut him when he ran afoul of the law for assaulting a moving van driver.

It’s the only game Brown has played in more than 700 days. But he will try to carve out a role on a 5-2 Bucs team that incorporates Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller and rookie Tyler Johnson at receiver. Brown has more than 11,000 career receiving yards and 75 touchdowns.

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Buccaneers sign kicker Ryan Succop, waive Elliott Fry

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reshuffled their kicking competition with less than two weeks left before they open up the regular season versus the New Orleans Saints.

On Tuesday, the club announced that it has signed veteran kicker Ryan Succop and released Elliott Fry. Succop takes Fry’s place on the roster and will now directly compete with second-year incumbent kicker Matt Gay for the job in 2020. 

Succop signed a minimum one-year deal with Tampa Bay, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, that will pay him just $150,000 in guarantees so there isn’t much financial risk here.

The 33-year-old will have to make quick work proving that he’s a better option than Gay, however, as there are just four days left before Saturday’s roster cuts. 

The veteran has 11 seasons in the NFL under his belt and has netted 82.2% of his field goals throughout his career. Injuries derailed his 2019 campaign but he was able to hit 86.7% of his field goals and 90.3% of his extra points during his last full season in the league in 2018.

After coming off of IR in late October last year, Succop appeared in six games before landing back on IR in December.

Over that stretch, he hit one of his six field-goal tries and was 24-of-25 on extra points. 

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“I’m looking for consistency on the gimmes,” head coach Bruce Arians stated on Sunday when he was asked about what he’s looking for in a kicker.

“We can’t miss extra points. We can’t give away easy points. Kicks inside the 30-yard line should be automatic. If you can make a 56 yarder, that’s great. But, when we drive the ball down to the 10[-yard line] and miss a field goal, there’s nothing that tears a team more apart on offense than, ‘Hey, we just took the ball down the field and we didn’t get any points.’ So, the ‘gimmes’ – who’s the most consistent? If you can do that and still kick 56, 57[-yard field goals], now you’re All-Pro.”

Arians added on Monday that it’s mildly unsettling that the Buccaneers do not have a stable kicker with the regular season approaching, but said: “Whoever we line up out there, we’re going to have confidence in.”

As for Gay, he converted 77.1% of his field goals during his rookie year after Tampa Bay picked him in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Utah. Gay also hit 89.6% of his extra-point attempt.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jason Pierre-Paul undergoes knee surgery

Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul published on Snapchat that he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Friday, describing the procedure as a “tune-up.”

Pierre-Paul posted video of himself waiting for surgery at the hospital, getting into his car afterwards and walking on crutches with his knee bandaged.

“Get this surgery. You feel me? But I’m Gucci though. You feel me?” Pierre-Paul said in the video. “Because your boy just had to do it. He just had to do it.”

… Your boy good. I just had a little tune-up. But to be honest, if I’m going to break that sack record this year, I needed to do the surgery. So I did it.” A source told ESPN that there are no concerns about him missing the start of training camp.

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After suffering two fractured vertebrae in his neck last offseason, Pierre-Paul went on to record 8.5 sacks in 10 matches in 2019, while teammate Shaq Barrett led the NFL with 19.5 sacks.

Throughout the season last year, Pierre-Paul was listed on the injury report with a knee injury but continued to play.

Earlier this offseason, he signed a new two-year deal worth $25 million. The surgery was performed to alleviate some discomfort he was feeling.

“Your boy good. I just had a little tune-up,” Pierre-Paul said. “You feel me? But to be honest, if I’m gonna break that sack record this year, I needed to do the surgery. So I did it.”

The two-time Pro Bowl selection was traded from the New York Giants to the Buccaneers before the 2018 season. Earlier this off-season, Pierre-Paul signed a two-year, $25 million deal with the Buccaneers.

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Patriots trade Rob Gronkowski to buccaneers for fourth round pick

The New England Patriots agreed to trade tight end Rob Gronkowski and a seventh-round draft pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick, the Buccaneers reported. ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the news.

Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer stated that Gronkowski passed his physical with the team.

“Rob has agreed to play for Tampa this season,” Gronkowski’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. “He will honor his current contract at this time.”

Reports suggest that Gronkowski, who has one year left on his contract that will pay him $10 million this year, has been getting his body ready for a return to football, and that reuniting with Tom Brady was important.

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Gronkowski, 30, retired ahead of the 2019 campaign after eight seasons with New England. During his Patriots career, he was a three-time Super Bowl champion, five-time Pro Bowler and four-time first-team All-Pro selection. He caught 521 passes for 7,861 yards and 79 scores, establishing himself in his prime as the game’s best tight end and arguably the most talented player at the position in NFL history. 

Injuries were an issue for Gronk, however, as he missed 29 matches in his career and 13 games in his last three seasons alone. After posting double-digit touchdown receptions in five of his first six seasons, he had a total of 14 touchdowns between the 2016-18 campaigns. 

And now Gronkowski will be playing football with Brady in Tampa Bay next season. It’s great news for Bucs fans and more tough news for Patriots fans, who have seen the most important player in franchise history sign with a new team this offseason and one of the most popular figures in team history come out of retirement to join him.

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