Tristan Wirfs holding out could be a sign for future Buccaneers in need of new contracts

Wirfs has reportedly held out of mandatory OTA's in search of a record-setting contract, a route several Buccaneers eligible for extensions may follow in the coming years
Tennessee Titans v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tennessee Titans v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

Throughout the 2024 offseason, a major theme for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been re-signing their star players. Over the past two months, Tampa Bay has successfully brought back quarterback Baker Mayfield, wide receiver Mike Evans, linebacker Lavonte David, and safety Antoine Winfield Jr., but another big name needs some attention.

Arguably the most important piece of business left unaddressed is getting a deal done with superstar left tackle Tristan Wirfs, who will enter free agency next offseason.

Wirfs has quickly become a key cornerstone on Tampa Bay's offensive line four years into his NFL career. Starting in 63 games, Wirfs has played 4,286 total snaps and has allowed just ten sacks and 16 penalties. Dating back to 2020, Wirfs has earned PFF grades of 83.8, 81.1, 84.6, and 81.8, the highest marks of any offensive lineman drafted in 2020.

Despite an unimpressive 2023 season with six penalties and five sacks on 1099 snaps, Wirfs still finished the year with an 81.1 grade from PFF. Similarly, Wirfs didn't allow a single penalty or sack in 134 postseason snaps this season for a career-best 83.6 PFF grade in the postseason.

Tristan Wirfs won't be the last holdout the Bucs will have to deal with

At just 25 years old, Wirfs has quickly ascended the ranks of the NFL's top tackles. Four years in, Wirfs has earned three Pro Bowl selections and was named to the NFL's All-Pro First Team in 2021 and the Second Team in 2022. After making the NFL's All-Rookie Team in 2020, Wirfs has earned rankings of No. 89, No. 41, and No. 98 in the NFL's annual top-100 list.

After getting drafted, Wirfs signed a four-year, $16.2 million rookie contract through this past season. The Buccaneers rightfully picked up Wirf's fifth-year option worth $18.6 million for 2024, and coming to terms on an extension for the superstar left tackle is the next key goal for Tampa Bay.

It wouldn't be shocking for Wirfs to become the highest-paid tackle in the league and in NFL history. As of now, Detroit All-Pro tackle Penei Sewell is the highest-paid offensive tackle in the league after signing a four-year, $112 million extension this offseason for an AAV of $28 million. Sewell clears Houston's Laremy Tunsil, New York's Andrew Thomas, and San Fransisco's Trent Williams as the richest offensive tackle, who each have AAVs of $25, $25, and $23.01, respectively.

As the Buccaneers have begun mandatory OTA's, the negations between Wirfs and Tampa Bay have taken a turn for the worse. On Tuesday, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported that Wirfs didn't report for voluntary workouts and "doesn't plan to in the immediate future" while he's seeking a long-term contract. Fowler added that the two sides "have not made progress on a new deal."

In recent years, holding out of OTA's, training camp, and even preseason and regular-season games have become more and more common for star players in search of a new contract. Wirfs holding out of OTA's isn't completely shocking but could be the start of a rough trend for Tampa Bay moving forward.

Alongside Wirfs, wide receiver Chris Godwin is also set to become a free agent in 2025, and will likely search for a raise after his three-year, $60 million contract expires next February. Strong safety Jordan Whitehead, offensive guard Luke Goedeke, running back Rachaad White, tight end Cade Otton, and cornerback Zyon McCollum are also notable Buccaneers set to become free agents next offseason.

While the likelihood that Tampa Bay lets Wirfs walk in free agency is low, it wouldn't be surprising to see Wirfs be the first player on the list to hold out of team activities in search of a new contract. Wirfs's actions make it clear that the superstar tackle wants to be in Tampa Bay, but he and the other six players eligible for extensions may take a similar route during contract extensions.

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