Antoine Winfield Jr.

Buccaneers Open To Extending Baker Mayfield; Latest On Mike Evans, Antoine Winfield Jr.

Baker Mayfield‘s 2021 and ’22 seasons tanked his 2023 free agent market. He settled for backup money from the Buccaneers, who were looking to cut costs after the Tom Brady $35.1MM in dead money hit their cap. Mayfield fit the bill, signing a one-year deal worth $4MM.

Midway through the season, Mayfield is on pace to fare better on the 2024 market — should he land in free agency. Mayfield, 28, entered the season joining Kirk Cousins and Ryan Tannehill as starting quarterbacks in contract years. With Tannehill benched and Cousins out for the season, Mayfield is the only one left who has a clear path to adjusting his 2024 stock. The Bucs are an interested party, which makes sense given their standing.

The Bucs are open to the idea of a second Mayfield contract, Jeremy Fowler of notes. They have exclusive negotiating rights with their current starter until March’s legal tampering period. That said, Fowler adds the sides have not engaged in negotiations just yet. It would make sense for both parties to let more of the season play out. Mayfield could elevate his stock with a strong finish, but given his inconsistent career, the Bucs also may still be leery of a more lucrative payment to a middling quarterback.

Far from middling in 2021 and ’22, Mayfield was with three teams last year and finished with league-worst QBR. Some Panthers staffers viewed Mayfield’s late arrival in Charlotte, which came to pass because of lengthy negotiations between Cleveland and Carolina regarding both draft compensation and an adjusted contract, impacted his poor Panthers performance. Mayfield played through a shoulder injury for most of his 2021 season in Cleveland, and the Browns moved on via the controversial Deshaun Watson trade/extension.

Mayfield ranks 14th in QBR through nine games, and he is completing passes (64.6%) at a career-high rate while carrying 14-5 TD-INT ratio. While the Bucs lost four straight after a 3-1 start, Mayfield had them in position to upend the Texans before a C.J. Stroud last-minute drive. He has tossed two touchdown passes in each of the past three games while throwing just one INT in that span.

While Cousins has been one of the game’s most consistent quarterbacks during his Minnesota stretch and Tannehill has seen ankle trouble (and the Titans’ second-round Will Levis investment) ding his stock, Mayfield can change his perception over the next two months. It would be highly unlikely to see Mayfield rival Cousins for AAV in 2024, but a midlevel QB accord could be in play.

Mayfield’s top target is also in a contract year. Mike Evans came up briefly at the trade deadline, but the Bucs showed no indication then or in August — when the Jets initially called — they were open to dealing the nine-time 1,000-yard receiver. Blazing toward a record-extending 10th straight 1,000-yard year to start a career, Evans is playing out a contract he inked in 2018. The Bucs are not believed to have proposed a second extension to the best wideout in franchise history, but Fowler adds some around the league believed the door is not shut on Tampa Bay revisiting talks and finding a way to retain the free agent-to-be.

Evans set a Week 1 extension deadline, making his dissatisfaction with contract talks public late in the summer. Nothing materialized, but GM Jason Licht has continually praised the likely Hall of Fame-bound talent, and although Evans said no offer has come despite off-and-on talks over the past two years, the longtime GM said in August the team wants Evans to stay in Tampa long term. Considering how close Evans would be to becoming a first-time free agent, the Bucs may have to battle other teams on the open market.

Then again, Tampa Bay has done well in that department. Over the past three offseasons, the team has re-signed Shaq Barrett, Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean and Lavonte David after letting them gauge the market during recent tampering periods. An Evans departure would obviously create a glaring need for the Bucs, which would point to the organization being interested. It remains to be seen, however, if the team is ready to pay upper-echelon money to convince the 30-year-old weapon to pass on outside interest come March.

The best bet for a Bucs franchise tag, though, might be Antoine Winfield Jr. Much younger than Mayfield and Evans, the 25-year-old safety would be on track to become one of the top 2024 free agents. A summer rumor indicated the Bucs were interested in extending Winfield, but nothing has come of it yet. At midseason, Fowler adds the Bucs have not made aggressive attempts to re-sign their young players just yet. Given the timelines of the Davis and Dean deals, it is not too surprising the Bucs have not gotten serious on a second Winfield contract yet.

This year’s safety market largely settled in south of $10MM per year, but Jessie Bates was the outlier, signing a four-year, $64MM Falcons pact. Winfield’s age and productivity would put him in line to rival Bates’ accord, which could conceivably bring the tag into play. A few teams have cuffed safeties during the 2020s. The Broncos tagged Justin Simmons twice, while the Bengals (Bates), Vikings (Anthony Harris), Saints (Marcus Williams) and Jets (Marcus Maye) unholstered the tag as well. Those tag prices all came in south of $13MM. OverTheCap projects the 2024 safety tag to be north of $18MM, which would make such a decision more difficult.

While the Bucs exercised Tristan Wirfs‘ fifth-year option to extend his negotiating timeline, they have until early March to keep their 2020 second-round pick off the market.

NFC Rumors: Bucs, Lions, Panthers, Packers

The Buccaneers may be considered as a rebuilding squad, but that doesn’t matter much to the players fighting for roster spots in the late preseason. As the regular season inches nearer and nearer, two starting positions are starting to come into focus, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

On offense, center Ryan Jensen has not returned to practice as he continues to recover from three knee ligament tears that he opted not to have surgery on. In his absence, Robert Hainsey and Nick Leverett have been competing for the starting job. Hainsey likely has a bit of an edge after playing the position in college and starting all 17 games last season for Tampa Bay, but Leverett has meshed well in new offensive coordinator Dave Canales‘ new zone-blocking scheme. Even if Hainsey can’t hold onto the job, Leverett may keep the position competitive.

On defense, Dee Delaney has really stepped up at nickelback after the team opted to move Antoine Winfield Jr. back to free safety full-time. Delaney, who spent four years at The Citadel before transferring to Miami (FL) and going undrafted, has stuck in Tampa Bay, playing 32 games over the past two seasons while starting three of them. Delaney has had a great camp as reflected in a stellar performance in last week’s preseason game against the Jets. Undrafted rookie Christian Izien has also impressed with physical play throughout the preseason, while rookie sixth-round pick Josh Hayes has fallen a bit behind in the position battle.

Here are a few more roster battles to watch heading into the final weekend of preseason games this season:

  • Nate Sudfeld was viewed as a solid backup option at quarterback for the Lions last season. Coming into 2023, though, he may be struggling to retain a roster spot, according to Justin Rogers of The Detroit News. Obviously, Jared Goff has the starting job locked up, but recently signed veteran Teddy Bridgewater has made a strong case for the QB2 role behind him. Sudfeld still has value to the team, but head coach Dan Campbell made it clear that his roster status depends on if he adds more value to the team than depth at other positions on the roster. If CB5 or CB6 end up adding more value than Sudfeld as QB3, he may find himself missing out on the initial 53-man roster.
  • As starting guard Austin Corbett waits to be cleared following ACL surgery, the Panthers‘ situation at guard is feeling a bit precarious. A tweet from Joseph Person of The Athletic tells that a decision on the starting right guard job in Corbett’s absence has been delayed until the returns from injury of rookie fourth-round pick Chandler Zavala and undrafted rookie Nash Jensen. Head coach Frank Reich wanted both rookies to have a chance for the spot before making the decision. Zavala was recently activated from the physically unable to perform list and hasn’t seen much action. Jensen was impressing early in the offseason before a back injury slowed his progress. They’ll compete with Cade Mays and Justin McCray for the position, but Person believes that Carolina may pursue some added competition at roster cutdowns.
  • Last week, the Packers‘ seventh-round pick from last year, Rasheed Walker, got the starting call at left tackle ahead of usual backup Yosh Nijman, according to Matt Schneidman of The Athletic. Nijman has been the usual go-to at tackle when starter David Bakhtiari isn’t available, but Schneidman thinks that Walker may have worked his way past Nijman on the depth chart as of late.

Bucs Eyeing Antoine Winfield Jr. Extension

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’s Jeremy Fowler. While Wirfs is tied to Tampa Bay through 2024 via the fifth-year option, Winfield is going into a contract year.

[RELATED: Bucs Restructure Winfield’s Rookie Deal]

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.

T Tristan Wirfs, S Antoine Winfield Jr. Agree To Buccaneers Restructures

As has been the case for much of the 2023 offseason, the Buccaneers finished minicamp near the bottom of the league in cap space. A pair of moves made this week will give them some financial breathing space, however.

Tampa Bay restructured the contracts of left tackle Tristan Wirfs and safety Antoine Winfield Jr., as noted by Greg Auman of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The team added three void years to the former’s contract, along with four for the latter. In all, the pair were scheduled to make $5.8MM in salary this season, but their cap hits will come down as a result of this move.

Both Wirfs and Winfield are still on their rookie contracts, making it something of a rarity that they have seen their deals re-worked. Both figure to be mainstays on the team for years to come, however, having started every game they have played in during their first three years in the league. Winfield will be eligible for free agency next March, but Wirfs is already on the books for 2024 since Tampa Bay made the expected decision of picking up his fifth-year option.

The latter will look to transition to left tackle this season, after spending his first three years on the right side. Expectations will be high for Wirfs, who has earned a Pro Bowl and All-Pro nod (one first-team, one second-team) in each of the past two campaigns. Veteran Donovan Smith was one of several departures this offseason, after he was released in a cost-cutting move. A successful year on the blindside for Wirfs would go a long way toward earning him a sizeable raise on his next deal.

Winfield, meanwhile, is again in line for a central role in the Buccaneers’ defensive play in 2023. The 24-year-old has a Pro Bowl invitation to his name, and has emerged as a highly productive player against the run and pass. Tampa Bay lost Keanu Neal in free agency while adding former Seahawk Ryan Neal; veteran Logan Ryan remains unsigned. The retention of cornerback Jamel Dean will give the team continuity in the secondary, though, and allow Winfield the opportunity to play his way into a multi-year extension.

Second contracts for both Wirfs and Winfield will present the Buccaneers with a new financial challenge, having already navigated the 2023 offseason with more than $75MM in dead cap charges to overcome. Long-term commitments to those two will no doubt be a priority down the road, but the team’s outlook for the immediate future has been improved.

Buccaneers S Antoine Winfield Jr. Clears Concussion Protocol

Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is set to return to the field after missing the past two weeks with a concussion, according to Buccaneers senior writer Scott Smith. Tampa Bay will have its third-year starting safety back in time for a home matchup with the Seahawks.

Winfield is coming back from the second multi-week absence of his career due to a concussion. The Pro Bowler missed two games last year after getting knocked out of a Week 4 win over the Patriots. He missed two games later in that season with a foot injury.

Since intercepting Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in Week 1, Winfield has been quiet in terms of playmaking, but he has a penchant for making plays over his career with four interceptions, 14 passes defensed, five forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries over the first two and half years of his NFL career. Winfield is also a presence in the team’s pass rush with eight sacks and 10 quarterback hits so far in his career.

The return of Winfield to the secondary should equal backup safety Keanu Neal‘s return to the bench. Neal has started the last four games for the Buccaneers filling in for both Winfield and free safety Mike Edwards, who missed some time with an elbow injury. Neal filled in for Edwards in Week 6 and subbed in for Winfield after he left the team’s loss to the Panthers in Week 7. Neal started the next two games, as well, as Winfield worked to clear concussion protocols.

At this point, Winfield has been a full participant in practice for most of the week and will be full go against the Seahawks.

Latest On Buccaneers Injuries

The Buccaneers are still dealing with their fair share of injuries, but the team could soon be welcoming back some key players. According to ESPN’s Jenna Laine, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, cornerback Carlton Davis II, and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting all practiced this week, a strong indication that they’re ready to return from their respective injuries.

Hicks has been sidelined since Week 2 while nursing a foot injury. The veteran defensive lineman started 77 games during his six seasons in Chicago before joining the Buccaneers this past offseason. He started each of Tampa’s first two games, collecting five total tackles. His return to the lineup will surely help a defensive line that has struggled against the run.

“It helps because it puts everybody back in their roles,” coach Todd Bowles said. “It puts everybody back in their roles and they can get the amount of time and play how they’re used to playing, and it helps us up front because it gives us a dimension we haven’t had over there.”

Davis had missed the past two games after aggravating a hip injury in Week 6. The 25-year-old started each of the Buccaneers’ first six games, collecting 31 tackles and four passes defended. Murphy-Bunting suffered a squad injury in Week 5 that forced him to miss a handful of games.

Of course, as mentioned, Tampa Bay still has a crowded injury list. Pro Bowl defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. will be out tomorrow against the Rams, as will tight end Cameron Brate, left guard Luke Goedeke, and wide receiver Russell Gage.

Buccaneers Draft S Antoine Winfield Jr.

Not that long ago, Antoine Winfield was a standout slot cornerback in the NFC. His son, Antoine Winfield Jr., became a second-round pick Friday, landing with the Buccaneers at No. 45 overall.

Capable of high-end slot coverage, as his father was in Minnesota and Buffalo, Antoine Winfield Jr. finished his Minnesota career as an All-American safety.

The Bucs did not have a safety grade in the top 60, per Pro Football Focus, last season. While Tampa Bay’s defense took a big leap in 2019 — finishing fifth in DVOA — the group needed help on its back end.

Winfield finished with seven interceptions as a senior and registered 83 tackles. Scouts Inc. ranked the 5-foot-9, 203-pound defensive back as its No. 29 overall prospect.

Draft Rumors: Hurts, Giants, Jags, Tua

With the draft in less than 24 hours, several names have started to surface as potential first-round upsets. It would not surprise some around the league to see TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor and Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet end up as first-round picks, Tom Pelissero of notes. The Eagles have surfaced as a Reagor candidate; the TCU product clocked two sub-4.3-second 40-yard dashes recently. The tight end class is not viewed to be nearly as strong, but an AFC coach said Kmet’s landing spot will likely be in the back end of the first round or start of the second.

Notre Dame pass rusher Julian Okwara and Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette profile as players who could sneak into Round 1, per Pelissero. One exec compared Romeo Okwara‘s younger brother to an Anthony Barr type who could rush passers and drop into coverage. Julian Okwara registered 12 sacks over the past two seasons. Arnette would join Jeffrey Okudah as a first-rounder in this instance and follow a host of recent Buckeye corners by being a Thursday-night draftee. Arnette started 38 games in his Ohio State career.

Here is the latest from the draft world:

  • While Jalen Hurts is not expected to creep into the first round, Pelissero notes some NFL personnel believe he will go higher than most predict (Twitter link). So will Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr., Pelissero adds. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has Hurts going off the board at No. 49 overall to the Steelers; Scouts Inc. grades the dual-threat quarterback as its No. 94 overall prospect. The Packers, Chargers and Raiders are among the teams believed to be interested. Winfield (29th per Scouts Inc.) is a second-generation NFLer, the son of former Vikings Pro Bowl corner Antoine Winfield. The younger Winfield intercepted seven passes last year and is also seen as a player who, like his father, could move into the slot.
  • Ex-Hurts teammate Tua Tagovailoa is “very well-regarded” in New England, per Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston. However, Curran also believes the scenario NBC Sports’ Peter King suggested of the Patriots moving up to No. 13 (the 49ers’ slot) to draft a falling Tagovailoa doesn’t make much sense for the team, due to the Pats’ various other needs. Tagovailoa may now be back in play for the Dolphins at No. 5 anyway.
  • Buzz has surfaced about the Giants having a trade partner. While it is not certain the Jaguars are that team, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets several GMs have pointed to the Giants moving down from No. 4 and the Jags climbing up from No. 8. The Giants are believed to be serious about wanting to move down. Although the Jaguars are believed to be planning to give Gardner Minshew a legitimate opportunity, JLC speculates a move up would be for a quarterback.
  • This draft could well see five tackles taken in the first round. With Hall of Fame executive Gil Brandt listing Ezra Cleveland as a player who will go higher than expected,’s Mike Garafolo adds that the Boise State tackle is a “mortal lock” to be chosen in Round 1 (Twitter link). The Browns were believed to be eyeing Cleveland, which would be a fun fit. If they pass on a tackle at No. 10, the Browns may need to consider making an early move back into Round 1 for the rising player.

Antoine Winfield Jr. Declares For Draft

Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is declaring for the 2020 NFL draft, as ESPN’s Josina Anderson reports (via Twitter). His name is very familiar to NFL fans, as his father, Antoine Winfield Sr., played in the league for 14 seasons after being selected by the Bills in the first round of the 1999 draft. Also a defensive back, the elder Winfield made three consecutive Pro Bowls with the Vikings from 2008-10.

The younger Winfield played in 10 games as a true freshman in 2016 and recorded 52 tackles, a pick-six, and three passes defensed. He missed much of the next two seasons due to injury, but he was a star in 2019, recording seven interceptions, 83 tackles, and three sacks. He did not win the Jim Thorpe award, as his father did in 1998, but he established himself as one of the best safeties in the class.

As such, he has a real chance of being selected in the first round. His injury history may hurt his stock, but he has good technique, is capable against the run and the pass, and has excellent ball skills to boot.

Teams like the Cowboys, Saints, and 49ers could be in play for Winfield, as could his father’s old team, the Vikings.