When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw a path to sign Tom Brady, general manager Jason Licht didn't hesitate.
Bringing on the six-time Super Bowl champion and three-time NFL MVP, however, entailed closing the door on Jameis Winston, the No. 1 pick in 2015 and five-year starter for the team.
Despite the split, Licht doesn't see Winston's tenure as a failure.
"We have a lot of respect for Jameis. Jameis was still part of our plan if things went a different route," Licht said Thursday, according to ESPN. "We've got a lot of respect for him. I thought he did a lot of great things, and anybody in our office or building would say the same thing. He did some spectacular things for us. I would never say that, personally — and I think I speak on behalf of the organization — that he's a bust. I think he's got a bright future ahead of him."
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Winston, 26, led the NFL in passing yards in 2019 with 5,109. But the Florida State product was plagued by turnovers throughout his career. The issue reached a boiling point last season, when Winston's 30 interceptions tied for the seventh-highest single-season total in NFL history.
Throughout the offseason, the Buccaneers remained noncommittal about Winston's future with the franchise, with coach Bruce Arians saying at the end of the year the team could "definitely" win with another quarterback.
"[It] really comes down to we had a chance to get Tom Brady, and Tom Brady is a hell of a player, and we're very excited about that," Licht said. "I'm very confident that Jameis is gonna go on and get an opportunity. That's not the last you're gonna hear from Jameis."
Appearing on Fox News on Wednesday, Winston said he understood the decision.
"One thing you can learn about me is my faith," Winston said. "I have tremendous faith in the Lord. And one thing about Tom Brady is it's understood that he is the GOAT (greatest of all time). For you to get replaced by Tom Brady in a city that you love so much, I guess that’s kudos to me.
"But at the end of the day, it's a competitive sport. We’re all in a business. So I'm excited for whatever opportunity (ahead) may hold."
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.
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