Antoine Winfield Jr. manifested becoming NFL’s highest-paid defensive back: ‘I put the work in’

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The National Football League’s highest-paid defensive back was all smiles and full of gratitude while discussing his historic deal for the first time on Monday afternoon.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers star safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is no stranger to success. Following his father’s footsteps to the league, the 25-year-old said he’s dreamed of playing professional football and to still be in Tampa — the only place he wanted to be — is a dream come true.

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“It’s been a dream ever since I was a young kid,” Winfield Jr. said, grinning ear-to-ear. “And to still be here, in Tampa Bay — the only place I really wanted to be at — it’s a huge blessing. And I really appreciate everybody that’s worked on the contract.”

From family members to high school, college, and current teammates and coaches, Winfield Jr. thanked everyone for helping him get to where he is now.

“I also want to say thank you to all my teammates that I’ve played with over the last four years and for, you know, making it possible for me to be here because you know, I’m not the only one that’s out in the field, out there playing,” he added.

The Buccaneers and Winfield Jr. agreed to the historic four-year, $84.1 million deal on May 13, making it the “first time in modern NFL history that a safety has set this mark,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter said.

While the extension made him the highest-paid defensive back in the NFL, Winfield Jr. has more goals to achieve, including adding another Super Bowl ring to his collection.

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“History. This deal right here is, you know, a dream come true,” he shared. “I had a vision going into this year, and I manifested a lot of things, and it’s something that you have to see, you know, before it actually happens. I put the work in and I’m gonna continue to put the work in, and I feel like my best football hasn’t even been displayed yet.”

Just as the All-Pro safety said, he brought the deal to fruition and even had the video to prove it.

After it was announced the Bucs and Winfield Jr. reached an agreement, he posted a video of him and his fiancée working out at a Tampa park near his home, where he said he “wanted to be the highest-paid this year” and to “mark [his] words.”

“It’s kind of crazy looking at the video that I posted out there and coming back now a year to that date. I’m like, ‘Wow, I still can’t believe I actually accomplished that feat.’ But I still got more hidden,” he revealed.

“It was at a park, like right down the street by my house in Tampa, and I was just out there doing some extra work and [my fiancée] picked up the camera and she was like, ‘Say something to the camera,’ and then I just started talking and those are goals that I had in my mind. Now we’re here today and I accomplished those,” Winfield Jr. continued.

Bucs’ general manager Jason Licht also spoke during Monday’s press conference, calling Winfield Jr. a “stellar teammate,” adding that the historic contract was rightfully deserved.

“When you have a player like Antoine, who was done everything right from the minute we drafted him, he’s just been a stellar teammate. We’ve talked about this all offseason, the kind of guys we look for and Antoine’s silhouette could be up there as well. So, you feel good about doing good things for great players, great teammates, great people for this organization,” Licht said.

Bucs’ head coach Todd Bowles also praised Winfield Jr., calling him a “dynamic player.”

“It’s hard to express what a player like Antoine Winfield Jr. means to our team,” Bowles said. “He’s a dynamic player whose presence elevates our team every day and whose work ethic inspires those around him. Between his football IQ, his leadership, and his relentless drive, he sets the standard for what it means to be a Buccaneer.”

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In 2023-24, the 25-year-old safety put forth an unprecedented NFL Defensive Player of the Year-caliber season, amassing 122 tackles (six for loss), 12 passes defensed, eight quarterback hits, six sacks, six forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and three interceptions.

Despite his achievements this season, Winfield Jr. was snubbed of a Pro Bowl. Instead, Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker was elected to the Pro Bowl team despite recording zero interceptions, zero forced fumbles, zero fumble recoveries and zero sacks this season.

Additionally, Winfield Jr. was also the Tampa Bay Buccaneers nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year.

Since entering the league in 2020, Winfield Jr. leads all defensive backs in sacks (15), quarterback hits (21), forced fumbles (11) and fumble recoveries (eight). He is also tied for seventh in takeaways with 15. Winfield Jr. also leads the NFL among all players with 19 forced fumbles plus fumble recoveries since 2020.

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