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Report: Bucs likely to use franchise tag on Antoine Winfield, Jr. not Baker Mayfield

Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. was snubbed for the Pro Bowl. He nevertheless secured the more significant designation of first-team All-Pro. Soon, he could be adding the title of franchise player.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Buccaneers are expected to use the franchise tag on Winfield, if they use it this year. That means they won’t use it on quarterback Baker Mayfield.

That means Mayfield will become an unrestricted free agent.

That makes things very interesting. Mayfield resurrected his career in Tampa last season. (He was my first choice for comeback player of the year.) He led the Bucs to the playoffs. Unless Tampa Bay gets him signed in the next few weeks, he can go anywhere he wants.

He would join Kirk Cousins and (if/when released by the Broncos) Russell Wilson and (when released by the Raiders) Jimmy Garoppolo as former starters turned veteran free agents. Others who will hit the market, barring extensions, include Sam Darnold and Ryan Tannehill.

That’s a lot of veteran talent at the quarterback position. It should make for a very interesting free-agency period. It all starts in only three weeks.