Buccaneers making progress on long-term deal with Antoine Winfield Jr.

If a deal can't be reached before 4 pm ET, the Bucs will place the franchise tag on their top defensive player.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Buffalo Bills
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Buffalo Bills / Rich Barnes/GettyImages

With Mike Evans officially back and taken care of, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are shifting their attention to the two other major free agents the team needs to re-sign.

Baker Mayfield getting most of the national focus, as quarterbacks tend to do, but Antoine Winfield Jr is someone Bucs fans are keeping an equal eye on. He's without a doubt the best defensive player the team has and is arguably the most valuable player on the roster after what he's done over the course of his short career.

Winfield is set to be a free agent next week when the new league year begins, and teams will be able to try and pry him away starting next Monday during the legal tampering period. The Bucs are not planning on letting that happen, as the team is reportedly making progress on what should be the easiest decision of the entire offseason.

Buccaneers making progress on long-term deal with Antoine Winfield Jr

According to Pewter Report, the Bucs and Winfield are making progress on a deal that should get done before Tuesday's franchise tag deadline.

Rick Stroud reports that if a deal can't be reached before the 4 pm ET deadline expires, then the Bucs will place the tag on Winfield with the intention of using it as a means of extending the negotiating window rather than having him play on a one-year deal.

Both are reporting that Winfield is expected to become the highest-paid safety in the league, thus resetting the market with his contract.

We've known for a while that the Bucs were going to do everything they could to ensure Winfield is part of the long-term future. He was already a key piece of the core heading into last season but he took things to another level with the way he helped single-handedly change the course of games.

Right out of the gate in Week 1 he was making plays that shifted momentum back to Tampa Bay's side to help get the season started right. Forcing a fumble on Kirk Cousins was perhaps the easiest and most traditional way he made a play, as Winfield developed a knack for knocking the ball out at the goal line and keeping points off the board.

He did this in a game the Bucs lost to Atlanta, but also did it in Week 18 against Carolina on a play that likely saved Tampa Bay's season.

Winfield is firmly in the Mike Evans category where he's criminally underrated throughout the league despite being one of the most elite players at his position. There's an argument to be made that Winfield is the best safety in the NFL, and if he's not going to get Pro Bowl votes to show for it he's certainly going to have the contract.

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