Buccaneers franchise tag Antoine Winfield: 3 things that happen next

The work is only just getting started in Tampa Bay.

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Another free agent domino has fallen in Tampa Bay, as the Buccaneers officially placed the franchise tag on Antoine Winfield Jr ahead of Tuesday's deadline.

It comes on the heels of the Bucs working out a new contract with Mike Evans which will keep him in Tampa Bay for at least two more years and buys the team some time to work out another extension. That seems to be the sentiment around the Bucs tagging Winfield, as it feels more like the beginning of something getting done than a final step.

What tagging Winfield does, in the short-term, is it keeps him off the open market. Teams can't come in and steal him out from under the Bucs and the front office has time to work out a deal. With free agency set to open in less than a week, it also means the final stages of the Bucs setting the table are underway.

Buccaneers franchise tag Antoine Winfield: 3 things that happen next

Work out a long-term deal with Antoine Winfield Jr.

Tagging Winfield was a safety valve, not a solution. The endgame for the Bucs is to get a long-term deal worked out that will keep Winfield in Tampa Bay as a key piece of the core for the foreseeable future.

By tagging him, the Bucs are merely extending the negotiating window and buying more time to work something out. There's almost no way that Winfield plays next season on the franchise tag, although it can't be ruled out until he actually has a new deal. That's a disastrous outcome on more levels than what it could mean for the long-term future of Winfield in Tampa Bay.

The Bucs need to work something out not only to ensure the best safety in football remains on the roster, but getting a deal done helps the front office know how to navigate the rest of the offseason. All signs point to something getting done, but tagging Winfield is just the start of the process rather than the end.