Bruce Arians says Buccaneers can win with QB other than Jameis Winston

TAMPA, Fla. -- One day after Jameis Winston became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said little to inspire confidence that Winston will be back next year.

When asked Monday if he believes the Bucs could win with another quarterback, Arians responded, "Another quarterback? Oh, yeah. [If] we can win with this one, we can definitely win with another one too. We're going to have this defense."

Arians came out of retirement, in large part, for the opportunity to coach Winston. They have known each other since Winston attended Arians' camps in Birmingham, Alabama, years ago.

And while Winston did become just the eighth quarterback in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards in a season, he struggled with turnovers, which put significant strain on the Bucs' young defense. Opponents scored 112 points off Winston's turnovers this year -- the most in the NFL.

Arians said the Bucs weren't in position to bench Winston because of injuries and that he was given more slack despite his mistakes. Arians also indicated that should Winston return, he would be given less leeway.

"A big part of it was [backup] Blaine [Gabbert] getting hurt, and we had to find out [if] this was the franchise [quarterback]. We had to find out," Arians said.

Winston, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2015, has completed his rookie contract. No immediate decision will be made on Winston's future, but Arians will meet with general manager Jason Licht and Bucs ownership in the coming weeks. Arians wants to spend time reviewing all 16 games. One of the things he'll do is determine who's at fault for every interception.

"It will be a while," Arians said. "I would think in a few weeks we will have a decision on which way we want to head. Will we let it out? Probably not. Because you lose your leverage on that one too. So it's 'stay tuned.'"

Arians said a big part of the decision will hinge on who's available in free agency and in the draft. He said it would not be an issue if he had to bring in another quarterback to learn his system. The Bucs are slated to select 14th overall in the NFL draft. They're also projected to have nearly $89 million in salary-cap space -- third most in the NFL.

The big priority will be keeping the Bucs' defensive front seven together. The Bucs' sack numbers jumped from 38 in 2018 to 47 in 2019. The team would like to keep both Shaq Barrett -- who registered a league-high 19.5 sacks this year -- and Jason Pierre-Paul.

"Free agency -- who's available? What's behind Door No. 2? I think that's the first question," Arians said. "And as you evaluate for the draft, that's another question. Are they better than what you have? And then you evaluate and that's when you make your decisions."