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Bucs agree to terms with Ryan Fitzpatrick to be the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Jameis Winston

By Rick Stroud | Times Staff
Published: March 8, 2018 Updated: March 9, 2018 at 12:59 AM
LOREN ELLIOTT | Times Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) looks to pass during the first half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017.

TAMPA – Fitzmagic will return to Tampa Bay next season.

The Bucs agreed to terms Thursday with vagabond veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on a one-year contract to play behind starter Jameis Winston next season.

Fitzpatrick, 35, went 2-1 as a starter last season in place of Winston, who missed three games with a shoulder sprain in 2017.

The Bucs also have quarterback Ryan Griffin under contract for next season.

The signing of Fitzpatrick is significant. Winston is under investigation by the NFL for allegations that he groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in March 2016.

Winston has denied the allegations. Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby, a teammate of Winston's at Florida State, said he was in the back seat of the Uber vehicle that night with Winston and no incident occurred.

Should Winston be found in violation of the league's personal conduct policy, he could be subject to a suspension.

"You can lose your starting quarterback at any time," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said last week, "so the backup quarterback is pretty important. We've been fortunate the time I've been in Tampa, we've had good backup quarterbacks. We went 2-1 with our backup quarterback last year.

"We also have Ryan Griffin under contract. If you remember, we felt like Ryan was playing pretty well up until the time he got hurt in the preseason. I like Ryan's skill set. He just doesn't have experience. It's that old Catch 22. 'Coach, how do I get experience if I don't get experience?' But skill-set wise and knowing our system, we feel good about Ryan."

The team's decision to re-sign Fitzpatrick was not unexpected but a real vote of confidence considering what promises to be a fertile free agent quarterback market. The Vikings' Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater all could become available when the new league year begins March 14.

The Bears also have indicated that former Bucs backup Mike Glennon will be released before on Wednesday. Glennon was also considered to be a strong option but he will likely seek a situation where he can compete for a starting job.

Fitzpatrick appeared in six games last season, starting three. He passed for 1,103 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Fitzpatrick made his first start against his former Jets team and won 15-10 before beating the Dolphins at Miami the next week, 30-20. Fitzpatrick's only loss came in a 30-24 defeat to the Falcons Nov. 26.

Fitzpatrick expressed a desire to return to the Bucs after the end of last season.

"For me, at this point in my career, I'm not going to be given or gifted a chance to start anywhere probably," he said. "And so, there's a lot of things that weigh into it now for me that maybe didn't years ago in terms of family and different situations. I enjoyed the year that I had here and the Tampa area in general. But I think Jameis did a good job this year, and you can see the improvement in his game, so I'd enjoy being back. I enjoyed my role this year."