3 key deadlines Bucs have for Antoine Winfield Jr., Baker Mayfield, and Mike Evans

With all three players needing new deals, there are three key deadlines to keep in mind

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

We've officially reached the offseason, and while the new league year doesn't being for another month there's still business the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to attend to before things get beyond their reach.

Tampa Bay has three key free agents set to hit the market this offseason: Antoine Winfield Jr., Baker Mayfield, and Mike Evans. All three would ideally be back next season but the open market might alter those plans.

On President's Day, the Bucs absorbed $14 million in dead cap thanks to void years on each of those three expiring contracts. That seems worse than it is, as the nightmare scenario is losing these guys in free agency if a deal isn't able to be reached ahead of time.

The clock is officially ticking, and the Bucs have a few checkpoints ahead of them they'll need to try and make some progress by.

3 key deadlines Bucs have for Antoine Winfield Jr., Baker Mayfield, and Mike Evans

March 5th

This is the first, and most crucial, deadline as it's when the franchise tag window closes. Teams have until 4pm ET on March 5th to place the tag on an eligible player, which isn't the end of the road with figuring out a deal but locks that player into the plans for the 2024 season.

Winfield is the most likely candidate to get tagged, as his $18 million salary would be a bargain for all that he brings. Something else the franchise tag does is it buys teams some time to try and work out a long-term deal with a player. The second franchise tag deadline -- and another date for Bucs fans to circle -- is in July.

This logic could suggest that tagging Mike Evans would be the move since it would give Tampa Bay more time, but doing so at almost $30 million is a massive risk. However, if the Bucs did tag Evans at that value -- which is officially at $28.4 million -- it would suggest that the team is willing to pay him around the $25 million AAV that he's projected to recieve on the open market.

March 11th

After the franchise tag deadline, the next date to circle is March 11th which is when the free agency tampering period begins. Whoever the Bucs don't tag and are unable to reach a deal with will be fair game for other teams to start talking to.

No deals can be officially signed during this period, rather it's more of a handshake agreement. This deadline is most important when it comes to Evans, as this would be the first real shot teams like the Chiefs, Jets, and Panthers would have at trying to lure him away from the Bucs.

March 13th

This is when the new league year officially begins, and any handshake agreement made during the tampering period can be submitted. Consider this the Doomsday Clock striking midnight when it comes to the Bucs three big free agents, as this would be the point of finality.

Unless Tampa Bay is reaches a deal ahead of this deadline, there's nothing the team can do to stop a player from leaving. Alternatively, the Bucs can reach a deal with a player and have it locked in before this deadline as they're the only team able to negotiate with pending free agents on their roster.

If nothing has been agreed upon up to this point, though, the likelihood of a player leaving increases to where it might take a miracle for them to return to Tampa Bay. It's not impossible, and someone like Evans could reach this point to test the market and give the Bucs a final number to match, but it's almost beyond the point of no return.

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