Report: Buccaneers expected to franchise tag Antoine Winfield Jr.

Oct 1, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31)
Oct 1, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) / Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest things the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to take care of this offseason is making sure Antoine Winfield Jr. is part of the long-term plan.

It seems obvious, but Winfield is set to become a free agent this March after having perhaps the best season of his young career. He was an All-Pro who looked not only like the best safety in the league but the best player on the Buccaneers roster.

When you lose count of how many times a guy single-handily saves a game with a play, that’s a pretty good sign. Winfield did that almost weekly for the Bucs, making plays that kept the team in games it otherwise had no business being in.

He forced fumbles at the goal line against Atlanta and Carolina, just to name a few, with the latter being a play that likely saved Tampa Bay’s season.

It’s almost impossible to overstate Winfield’s value, but that’s something the Bucs are going to have to put an actual number to soon.

Buccaneers expected to franchise tag Antoine Winfield Jr. this offseason

NFL insider Jonathan Jones broke down what the future holds for Tampa Bay’s three biggest free agents, and noted that his sources indicated Winfield is expected to get franchise tagged.

“Winfield Jr. appears destined for the franchise tag at around $18.2 million next month unless the two sides can reach an agreement on a long-term contract that would pay the first-team All-Pro safety top-of-the-market money,” Jones reported.

This isn’t terribly surprising, as it’s started to seem increasingly likely that Winfield will get tagged at a pretty reasonable price. Of the three big free agents Tampa Bay has, Baker Mayfield is the closest to a sure-thing, while Evans is the wild card given how he’ll have Super Bowl contending interest from the Chiefs and Jets in free agency.

If things shake out that way, Winfield is a no-brainer for the franchise tag, although a long-term deal that locks him in as a key piece of the core is the most ideal outcome.

Monday is a crucial date for Bucs fans to circle, as that’s when void years on deals for Baker, Evans, and Winfield will cash. Tampa Bay can save money on this year’s cap if they reach deals with those guys before the deadline, although it’s unlikely that will happen.

Perhaps Baker gets a deal by then, but for Winfield the deadline to circle is March 5th. That’s the last day teams can place the franchise tag on a player, which means the Bucs have until then to figure out a way to extend him long-term before kicking that can down the road to next offseason.

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