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Five players the Buccaneers should consider extending in 2024

The Buccaneers surprised many across the NFL with their team-building strategy last offseason, opting to reload with limited cap space rather than go into a full rebuild. The bet paid off with a third consecutive division title and a playoff win. Now, several key players are heading into free agency, and while the Bucs have far more cap flexibility, Tampa Bay still has some tough calls to make.

The team has 18 unrestricted free agents heading into 2024, but that doesn’t mean they can’t extend players who aren’t hitting free agency yet, either. Here are five players the Bucs should consider extending this offseason before the season kicks off for 2024:

LT Tristan Wirfs

David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports
David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

The cornerstone of the Bucs’ offensive line, Tristan Wirfs successfully transitioned from right to left tackle this season, remaining one of the league’s premier pass protectors. Though Tampa Bay exercised Wirfs’ fifth-year option for 2024, an extension is not only inevitable but economic. By signing Wirfs to an extension this offseason, the Bucs could lower his 2024 cap number from the $18.6 million allocated under the fifth-year option. This would also keep Wirfs in a Bucs uniform for years to come.

S Antoine Winfield Jr.

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs safety was arguably the best player on Tampa Bay’s defense if not the entire roster in 2023. He affected every aspect of the defense, recording career-high tackles (122), sacks (6) fumbles recovered (4) and interceptions (3) while leading the league in fumbles forced with six. Winfield Jr. may well have single-handedly willed the Bucs to the playoffs with his key goal-line forced fumble in Week 18 against the Panthers. A 2023 All-Pro, Winfield Jr. should reset the safety market with his extension.

WR Mike Evans

Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports
Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucs may regret failing to sign Mike Evans to an extension before the 2023 season. Tampa Bay’s Pro Bowl wide receiver was instrumental to the offense’s resilience in the face of Tom Brady’s retirement, leading the team in receiving yards (1255) and the NFL in receiving touchdowns (13). Evans also made history as the first player to start his career with 10 consecutive 1000-yard seasons. Even at 30 years old, Evans shows no signs of slowing down and is more than capable of carrying an offense.

QB Baker Mayfield

Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Baker Mayfield surprised the entire league this season with one of his best seasons as a pro. Mayfield hit career highs in yards (4044), completions (364) and touchdowns (28) and led the Bucs offense to the NFC Divisional Round of the playoffs. While Mayfield is still a mid-tier quarterback, the production he can provide is not easy to find and the Bucs have enough talent across the offense to maximize his effectiveness.

K Chase McLaughlin

(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

In 2023 Chase McLaughlin gave the Bucs everything a team could reasonably ask from a kicker. He was perfect on 38 extra point attempts and 21 field goal tries inside the 40-yard line. His only three misses came from beyond the 40-yard line, where he still made 80% of his kicks. Only Kansas City’s Harrison Butker was better beyond the 50-yard line as well as perfect on extra points.

McLaughlin’s rare blend of reliability and leg strength should make him a priority for Tampa Bay to re-sign. After spending years bouncing from kicker to kicker, the Bucs might finally have a long-term solution with McLaughlin.

Story originally appeared on Buccaneers Wire