Who Will Back Up Jameis Winston in 2019?


One big question we won’t have to worry about asking is, who will be starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019? Jameis Winston. His backup? That’s another story. Let’s look at who could fill that role.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Ryan Fitzpatrick made a strong case to usurp Winston at the beginning of the 2018 season while the franchise QB served his early season suspension. Fitzpatrick’s arm and mastery of the offense combined with Todd Monken’s play-calling allowed him to set an NFL record for hottest QB start, well surpassing 1,000 passing yards and 10 touchdown passes by week 4. Unfortunately, as the rest of the league knows, he was unable to ride his early season success the rest of the way.

If Fitz hadn’t kept reminding the Bucs and the rest of the league why he’s remained a career journeyman, he might have been able to score a huge contract to a team that doesn’t know any better. Knowing he’s nearing the end of his career, any move to another NFL team is likely lateral as he probably won’t ever find another starting opportunity. It’d be in Fitz’s best interest to either sign another one-year deal and learn from head coach Bruce Arians and Clyde Christensen or go to one of the two start-up leagues, the AAF or XFL.

Ryan Griffin

Arians could keep him around at least another year if they decide not to draft another QB in the late rounds. His condition of staying might be a chance to be a clear #2. After Winston, you essentially run into a similar situation like San Francisco last year where quality dropped off after Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending injury, enough to hinder the team to the point of mediocrity.

Matt Schaub

Matt Schaub started his career with the Atlanta Falcons. After experiencing some flashes of brilliance, he took his talents to Houston to be the Texans’ starting QB and became a two-time Pro Bowler. He was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 2014 to be primary backup to rookie Derrick Carr. He went to the Baltimore Ravens the following year before returning to the Falcons in 2016 to be primary backup to Matt Ryan.

Like Fitzpatrick, Schaub doesn’t have long left in his career, but an opportunity to learn under Arians might be reason enough to jump ship. The signs might also be on the wall that head coach Dan Quinn and reacclimated offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter might want to go after someone more youthful to be Ryan’s primary backup and possible successor.

Matt Cassel

Matt Cassel is also a journeyman and had serviceable runs starting and backing up across seven franchises. One of many backups to Tom Brady, Cassel started his NFL career with the New England Patriots. His performances in relief in Brady’s absence allowed him to be a commodity when he and linebacker Mike Vrabel were traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009.
Cassel has never been able to recreate his success with the Patriots since leaving. After the 2010 season, Cassel never topped 3,000 passing yards in a season again, and he’s remained a backup ever since, with stints with the Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, Tennessee Titans, and Detroit Lions.

While Cassel’s only made the Pro Bowl once, he’s still going and would make a serviceable band-aid should something befall Winston.

Robert Griffin III

Many are counting Robert Griffin III (RGIII) out following his initial run with the Washington Redskins that ended in 2015. His first two seasons showed the potential he has as a running and passing threat. During his rookie season in 2012, he threw for 3,200 yards and 20 TDs, running for 815 yards and seven TDs. He also made the Pro Bowl that year.

Despite his diminished numbers in 2014 and being regulated to backup status with the Cleveland Browns and currently the Baltimore Ravens, he could see second life on a team willing to give him a chance like the Bucs. If Michael Vick found second life with the Philadelphia Eagles after his stint with the Falcons, then why can’t RGIII?

NFL Draft

Considering Winston is playing in his contract year and the major needs of the team, Arians is not likely to take a QB in the early round. He’s admitted openly that his faith in Winston is likely a primary reason for him coming on board.

Drafting a QB in the late round wouldn’t fulfill a need for a primary backup, but it would help fulfill the third-stringer role.