Buccaneers might not use franchise tag on Antoine Winfield Jr., and for good reason

Antoine Winfield is likely to get tagged, but it's not a sure thing.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints / Chris Graythen/GettyImages

President's Day might have been a day off for most folks, but not for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On Monday the clock started ticking on the Bucs needing to work something out with its top three free agents. Mike Evans is the biggest wild card, as it took less than a day for players around the league to start recruiting him on social media. Baker Mayfield has long felt like a matter of when, not if, he'll re-sign, and what happens with him might impact the outcome of Evans' situation.

Then there's Antoine Winfield Jr., who is arguably the best player of the group and the most important player to bring back. He's a top player at a premium position, and someone who should be viewed as a critical piece of the team's core.

Safety isn't the priciest position regarding the franchise tag, though, which suggests the Bucs will be using it on Winfield rather than Baker or Evans. The logic makes sense, but the situation is more nuanced.

Antoine Winfield Jr. likely to get franchise tagged, but it's not sure thing

Buccaneers beat writer Rick Stroud notes that Winfield is the team's likeliest candidate to receive the tag but it's not a sure thing.

"As the two-week window opens Tuesday for teams to apply the franchise player tag, Winfield is expected to be given that designation should the Bucs opt to use it this year," Stroud reported. "Even if the Bucs use the tag on Winfield, it doesn’t end negotiations on a long-term deal."

Tampa Bay has only used the tag seven times in the 30 years it has existed, however, three of those instances happened over the last four seasons. The Bucs tagged Chris Godwin twice and Shaq Barrett once, and were reportedly going to tag Jamel Dean last offseason.

All three players reached mid-to-long term deals with the Bucs to return. That's the precedent the team has going into this situation with Winfield and it's the reason for the hesistancy to outright say he'll be tagged.

There's a solid change Winfield is tagged, but the optimal outcome is the two sides reaching a long-term deal before that happens. Placing the tag on Winfield also shouldn't be interpreted as the end of the road, as it will merely be used to buy more time to work out a longer deal.

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