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Buccaneers place franchise tag on safety Antoine Winfield Jr.

Tampa Bay's leader in the secondary will be sticking around.

The Buccaneers placed the franchise tag on safety Antoine Winfield Jr., NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday, per a source. The team later announced the transaction.

Winfield Jr.'s tag is set at $17.123 million for 2024.

The 25-year-old defensive back now has until mid-July to agree to a long-term deal and avoid playing on the franchise tag. He and the Bucs could also work out a modified one-year contract before he signs the tender, something seen last year with running backs Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs.

Winfield Jr. is one of the first offseason dominos to fall for Tampa Bay, which has a series of massive decisions with quarterback Baker Mayfield entering free agency after the finest year of his career. Mike Evans signed a two-year, $52 million deal on Monday to remain in Tampa Bay, per Rapoport.

It's Winfield Jr., rather than Evans or Mayfield, that was always the most likely Buc to be tagged.

He was everywhere for the Buccaneers during the team's surprise 2023 run to the postseason, setting career highs across the board.

Winfield, a thumping tackler, had 122 last season, and he proved himself as an underrated blitzer with six sacks. His three interceptions, four fumble recoveries and 12 passes defensed led the team, while his six forced fumbles were tops in the NFL alongside Miami's Bradley Chubb.

He tied a bow on his rookie contract with his first All-Pro campaign and a sixth-place finish in AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting.

For those efforts, he'll now be tasked with running it back on the one-year tender, barring an agreement on a multi-year extension ahead of the July deadline.

The Buccaneers will have to balance any potential Winfield negotiations with deciding the fate of Mayfield, as well Winfield's linebacking teammates, Devin White and Lavonte David.

For now, though, they have the back end of their defense well secured for 2024.

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