Tristan Wirfs resides as the Buccaneers’ top extension candidate from the 2020 draft, but the rookie class that played a key role in the team winning a second championship includes another such priority.
A new deal for Antoine Winfield Jr. is on the Bucs’ radar as well, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler. While Wirfs is tied to Tampa Bay through 2024 via the fifth-year option, Winfield is going into a contract year.
Winfield, who will turn 25 later this month, is one of the NFL’s best young safeties. Pro Football Focus has graded the second-generation NFL DB as a top-10 safety in each of the past two seasons. As the Bucs’ offense cratered last year, its defense submitted respectable numbers (13th in points allowed, ninth in yards, 13th in DVOA). Winfield represented a big reason for the unit staying afloat, and he is now extension-eligible.
The top of the safety market ballooned toward $20MM per year last summer, with Minkah Fitzpatrick and then Derwin James topping Jamal Adams‘ record-setting AAV. James’ $19MM average leads the way. Winfield may not be a candidate to top James, but he should certainly be in the mix to land an extension near the top tier.
The Falcons just gave Jessie Bates a four-year, $64MM accord; that sits fourth at the position. Granted, that came on the open market, and other safeties did not do nearly as well in free agency this year. But at 25, Winfield should be going into his prime. That should make this a costly payment for a Bucs team that already has a number of pricey deals on defense — from Carlton Davis to Jamel Dean to Vita Vea to Shaquil Barrett. Reporting to training camp months after requesting a trade, Devin White sits in limbo entering his fifth-year option season.
Tampa Bay has managed to lock down its cornerstone defensive backs at manageable rates in recent years. Davis and Dean hit free agency, but neither cornerback secured a deal north of $15MM per year. Despite being more than $50MM over the cap at one point this winter, the Bucs re-signed Dean on a four-year, $52MM deal. Davis agreed to terms on a three-year, $44.5MM accord in March 2022.
With Tom Brady‘s void money coming off the books after this year and no franchise-QB salary on the Bucs’ books, money should be available for a player like Winfield, whom Fowler adds could be a candidate to be extended before the season starts. That would be a different approach compared to how the Bucs played it with Davis and Dean. But Winfield appears a priority for a team that, despite Brady’s retirement, still has several Super Bowl LV starters under contract.