Are Bucs selling fans on Jameis Winston?

TAMPA, Fla. – On the surface, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are doing their due diligence on Jameis Winston.

They had the Florida State quarterback in for a visit Tuesday. He met with general manager Jason Licht, coach Lovie Smith, ownership and others. That’s the kind of homework you would expect from a team that holds the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

But I have to wonder if the Bucs had an ulterior motive in bringing in Winston almost two months before the draft. And I wonder if that ulterior motive is why pictures and video of Winston’s visit showed up on the team website. I’m still wondering if that possible motive played a role in Smith saying a few weeks ago that he would have no problem with Winston being the face of the franchise.

Are the Bucs preparing their fans for the selection of Winston?

Ordinarily, fan bases jump up and down when their team holds the No. 1 pick and is about to draft a quarterback. That is especially true when the quarterback played his college football in the same state.

But things are different with Winston. His football talent is unquestionable, but he’s a polarizing figure. A large part of the Tampa Bay fan base still is hoping the Bucs take Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota instead.

That’s because of Winston’s background. While at Florida State, he was accused of (but not charged with) sexual assault. He also had several other off-field transgressions that have left questions about his maturity.

But the early indications are that Winston has won the Bucs over and they’re prepared to draft him. The Glazer family, which owns the team, is very private. But the Glazers still care very deeply about public perception. They want a franchise that fans can fall in love with the way they did back in the glory days of Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch. They need a face for their franchise, and Winston is a charismatic guy.

Maybe the Bucs are being so public with their feelings about Winston because they want to give their fans some extra time to embrace the selection.