TAMPA, Fla. — While the status of former first-overall draft pick Jameis Winston remains one of the Buccaneers‘ biggest storylines this offseason, coach Bruce Arians said Thursday that his priority is the defense, particularly re-signing outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who led the NFL with 19.5 sacks this year.
“Oh yeah. To me, it’s the whole defense,” Arians said after speaking at the NFL Coaches Academy. “You can’t get em all but we’ve gotta get … this team right now, the last eight games, our defensive statistics were … those young guys grew. We can’t let that go. I don’t care who’s my quarterback. We’ve gotta have a defense.”
Winston is set to become an unrestricted free agent after five years with the club. The team has been free to re-sign him at any point but has not done so.
Arians declined to comment on Winston opting to undergo LASIK eye surgery recently, despite discussing Winston’s nearsightedness at the end of the season.
“I don’t talk about guys’ personal stuff,” Arians said.
A source close to the situation told ESPN the decision was Winston’s and not done at the team’s insistence.
When asked if he felt closer to having more clarity on his quarterback situation, Arians said, “No, because you don’t know who’s available. You’re just sitting and waiting to see is there someone available? And is he a better option?
“That’s the problem. You get about three days to decide — the legal tampering [period]. Is somebody else gonna get let go? What’s the trade values? It’s really monotonous right now because you don’t really have any answers.”