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2024 Buccaneers Free Agent Focus: Antoine Winfield Jr.

Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. wrapped up his rookie contract in 2023 by earning First Team Associated Press All-Pro honors and helping the Bucs to a fourth straight playoff berth with a string of big plays


Antoine Winfield Jr. did something in 2023 that no Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety had done since eventual Hall of Famer John Lynch in 2000: He won first-team Associated Press All-Pro honors. That Winfield did so while playing the final year of his rookie contract is what we call very good timing.

Winfield is one of 18 players from the Buccaneers' division-winning 2023 roster who would become unrestricted free agents at 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday March 13 if there are no contract developments in the intervening weeks. Given the season he just put together, he is sure to be high on the Bucs' list of priorities.

The Bucs won't be able to keep all 18 of those potential free agents, but they will set thosepriorities and do their best to keep as much proven talent in the building as possible. And so, in the weeks leading up to the start of the new league year, we are going to look at 10 players who are currently poised to become unrestricted free agents in mid-March. This is the full schedule of our 2024 Free Agent Focus rundown:

• February 16: S Antoine Winfield Jr.

• February 21: RB Chase Edmonds

• February 23: K Chase McLaughlin

• February 28: WR Mike Evans

• March 1: DL Will Gholston

• March 5: G Aaron Stinnie

• March 6: LB Devin White

• March 7: WR David Moore

• March 8: LB Lavonte David

This list is subject to change based on potential roster moves in the coming weeks. However, we will continue today with one of the most impactful players on the Bucs' 2023 roster.

Player: Antoine Winfield Jr.

Position: Safety

Age at the Start of the 2024 Season: 26

Experience: Entering fifth NFL season

How Acquired: Selected in the second round (45th overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Previous Contract(s): Winfield signed the standard four-year contract that every player drafted after the first round gets.

Rank in Pro Football Focus Top 50 NFL Free Agents for 2023: 8th. PFF comment: "Winfield can line up in the box, take on receivers in the slot and play as a roaming deep-third free safety, finding success in single-high and two-high coverage shells. The former second-round pick is a difference-maker on the backend, and his remarkable versatility carries value at a position that appreciates it more than perhaps any other."

2023 Performance: Somehow, Winfield was not voted into his second Pro Bowl in 2023, which almost made one laugh more than cry. That inexplicable snub was more than made up for by the fact that, as noted earlier, the media members that vote on the AP awards named him one of the two best safeties in the entire league. He also finished sixth in the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year voting. When it came down to it, Winfield's numbers were just too ridiculous to ignore.

Those numbers included 122 tackles, 6.0 sacks, eight quarterback hits, three interceptions, 12passes defensed, six forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Since fumble data began being reliably tracked in 1999, Winfield is the first player ever to put together at least 100 tackles, at least five sacks, at least 10 passes defensed and at least five forced fumbles, plus the three interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

Winfield simply did it all for the Buccaneers in 2023, ranking first on the team in interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and passes defensed, while finishing second in tackles and sacks. Twice he turned what seemed to be a sure touchdown for the opposition into a last-second forced fumble and a turnover in the end zone. He did that first against Atlanta quarterback Desmond Ridder in Week Seven, giving the Bucs a chance for a late comeback. The second time was in a 9-0 victory in Carolina that clinched the division title in Week 18, as he punched the ball away from wide receiver D.J. Chark at the goal line.

Career Accomplishments: Winfield stepped immediately into the starting lineup as a rookie and has opened all 59 games in which he has played since. He has primarily played safety during his first four seasons but in 2022 also took on a safety/slot corner hybrid role. His career totals through his first four seasons include 384 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 15.0 sacks, seven interceptions, 27 passes defensed, 11 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and 21 QB hits.

Winfield's 15 sacks are already the most by a safety in Buccaneers history. They are also the most among all NFL defensive backs over the last four seasons; no other DB is even in double digits in that span. Winfield's 21 quarterback hits since 2020 also leads all NFL defensive backs.

Winfield has enjoyed a playoff berth in each of his first four seasons, playing in and starting eight postseason contests in that span (he missed the 2020 NFC Championship Game due to injury). His postseason totals include 44 tackles, 1.0 sack, three tackles for loss, three QB hits, one interception, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. His interception came off the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LV.

In addition to his All-Pro honors in 2023, Winfield was voted into the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2021.

Other Potential Free Agent Safeties: Kyle Dugger (Patriots), Kamren Curl (Commanders), Xavier McKinney (Giants), Geno Stone (Ravens), Julian Blackmon (Cols), Jordan Fuller (Rams), Jordan Whitehead (Jets), C.J. Gardner-Johnson (Lions), Deshon Elliott (Dolphins), Tashaun Gipson (49ers), Alohi Gilman (Chargers), Darnell Savage (Packers), Mike Edwards (Chiefs), Jeremy Chinn (Panthers), Micah Hyde (Bills), Jayron Kearse (Cowboys)

Top Safety Prospects in 2024 NFL Draft: Kamren Kinchens (Miami), Calen Bullock (USC), Tykee Smith (Georgia), Tyler Nubin (Minnesota), Javon Bullard (Georgia), Demani Richardson (Texas A&M), Jaden Hicks (Washington State), Evan Williams (Oregon), Daijahn Anthony (Mississippi), Beau Brade (Maryland), Josh Proctor (Ohio State)

Take a look at some of the best photos of the Buccaneers' defense from the 2023 season.

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