Winner: Antoine Winfield Jr., S
If Mike Evans is the best offensive player the Bucs have, there’s no question that the flip side of that coin is Antoine Winfield on defense.
Once again on Sunday Winfield proved that he’s a top safety in the league, and more than deserving of the fat contract that he’ll sign this offseason. Unlike Evans, the likelihood that the deal he inks is with the Bucs seems almost certain, as letting Winfield walk would be a fireable offense for even someone as accomplished as Jason Licht.
Like Tristan Wirfs, there’s no price the Bucs shouldn’t pay to ensure Winfield is part of the core moving forward. He was instrumental in making sure the defense didn’t skid off the track in a messy game against Carolina. With the pass rush struggling, it was Winfield who blew up Bryce Young for a huge sack that helped reset the tone.
With the game on the line, it was Winfield who stepped in front of a pass from Young along the sideline and reeled in what ended up being a game sealing interception.
Plays like this are plays of the year to most other defenders, but for Winfield they’re just routine parts of his Sunday. Countless times he’s been at the center of game altering plays, whether or not the rest of the team pulls its weight in capitalizing. In the loss to Atlanta, Winfield single-handily kept the Bucs in the game, specifically with a play where he punched the ball out of Desmond Ridder’s hand before he crossed the goal line on what would have been a game-sealing score.
Winfield was already a special player who has developed into a fan favorite, but he’s established himself as a key piece the Bucs need to do everything they can to ensure is part of their future.