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Bruce Arians' offseason priority is keeping top defensive free agents, not Buccaneers' QB

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 season.

"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 ... 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 can re-sign him at any point but has not done so.

In addition to Barrett, defensive players Jason Pierre-Paul, Carl Nassib, Ndamukong Suh, Beau Allen and Rakeem Nunez-Roches are all set to become free agents.

Barrett has been optimistic about remaining in Tampa.

"I don't know if it's gonna get done before [March], but I love that confidence that [Arians] gave me. I'm just ready to get it done and ready to start building my life in Tampa and be there for the long haul," he said last month at the Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

Arians declined to comment on Winston's decision 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 choice was Winston's and not done at the team's insistence.

Asked how much more complicated the quarterback situation is this year with so many veterans set to become free agents, Arians said, "I don't think there's that many guys involved. ... I'd be shocked if it's two," referring to teams re-signing players and utilizing franchise and transition tags.

Winston led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards in 2019, but he also threw a league-high 30 interceptions. 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."