How Good Is Antoine Winfield, Jr.?

December 23rd, 2023


It’s the highest praise you can lavish on a Buccaneer defensive back … he’s playing like Rondé Barber.

It’s way too early to forecast a gold jacket in his future, but Antoine Winfield Jr. is looking very Barberesque at the moment. The 45th player selected in the 2020 draft is emulating Barber’s versatility with big plays every week as Tampa Bay seeks its third consecutive division crown.

Antoine Winfield, Jr.

Who says so? The man himself.

“It’s his attitude, the way he chooses to play the game,” Barber says of a 25-year-old safety who will demand serious All-Pro consideration. “Not very often do you put on film and see a guy’s attitude. With Winfield, it’s no holds barred, aggressive and calculated.”

Winfield might need a calculator a year from now to figure out his income. As a potential unrestricted free agent, he would certainly be in high demand if he hits the market in March. That’s not likely to happen because the Bucs aren’t about to let him go.

He’s that good. He’s that valuable. The Bucs suffered a blow in 2022 when promising safety Jordan Whitehead signed with the Jets as a free agent. That one hurt, but losing Winfield would hurt more because Whitehead isn’t in Winfield’s class.

Few are.

When you start a draft haul by selecting Tristan Wirfs and Winfield, the rest is gravy. Jason Licht struck it rich and now both of these young studs are about to get their just rewards.

Nine defensive backs came off the board before Licht turned the card in on Winfield. Jeff Okudah, C.J. Henderson, A.J. Terrell, Damon Arnette, Noah Igbinoghene, Jeff Gradney, Xavier McKinney, Kyle Duggar and Grant Delpit were all chosen before Winfield.

None has matched Winfield’s production. Chase Young and Winfield are the only two defensive players in the Top 50 of that draft class to earn a Pro Bowl berth and the Bucs will now have to pay the man his money.

How good has Winfield been this season? He has a decent chance to lead the Bucs in interceptions, passes defended, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, sacks and tackles. Even Barber couldn’t pull that off during a 16-year Hall of Fame career.

Winfield’s five forced fumbles are only two behind the single-season franchise record shared by Stylez G. White (2007), Broderick Thomas (1991) and Wally Chambers (1979). Barber never had more than three forced fumbles in a season.

Buccaneers Ring of Honor cornerback/safety Ronde Barber..

Winfield has four sacks — Barber had one season (2000) with more than three. Winfield already has been credited with a team-high 107 tackles. Barber never topped 100.

So impressive.

Now let’s not get carried away. First of all, Barber was a cornerback for his first 15 years, not a safety. Their assignments and opportunities are different. To this point, Barber is the far superior ballhawk. Winfield makes plays … Barber took it to the house.

But to even mention Winfield in the same sentence as one of the best players in Buc history tells you all you need to know about No. 31.

“The game has slowed down for him immensely,” says Todd Bowles, a former NFL safety. “His constant work habits are outstanding.”

That’s another trait shared by Winfield and Barber — supreme preparation. What about leadership skills?
Barber served as a mentor for impressionable defensive backs like Aqib Talib and Jermaine Phillips. Even at his young age, Winfield is showing the way for a Zyon McCollum.

“He’s different,” McCollum says. “I look up to players like that. He just has a calm aura about him. He’s just a true professional. When he’s in the building, he can have fun, he can laugh, he can talk about things outside of football. But when it come down to football, there’s like a switch. He just goes into that mode. He’s always locked in.”

Barber’s career is historic. Winfield’s career is just getting started. Like Barber, it would be painful to think of Winfield playing for another franchise.

Long way to go? Sure. Heck of a start? You betcha.

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15 Responses to “How Good Is Antoine Winfield, Jr.?”

  1. Buckeyebuckchuck Says:

    Every bit as good as Ronnie Lott. A gem, don’t let him walk in Free Agency

  2. D-Rok Says:

    ^^^ I concur, Buckeye.

  3. PSL Bob Says:

    Should be a pro-bowl candidate for sure. He’s laying out his credentials for everyone to see.

  4. BucsFan Says:

    Ronnie Lott put people to sleep-literally , Winfield has however earned his payday.

  5. D Cone Says:

    Could prove to be an asset for the Bucs but then he’s going to get paid regardless where he goes. Just wonder how much it would mean to him to play for his Pop’s old team.

  6. BucsFan Says:

    Winfield will get to see Trevor as it was announced Lawrence will start.

  7. SlyPirate Says:

    Hopefully not to Joe’s surprise, Barber played CB. Win plays Safety. Totally different jobs. Shouldn’t compare him to another HOF? HINT: He’s the GM of the 49ers.

  8. Alanbucsfan Says:

    I wonder if Winfield Jr’s production would go up even higher if he played corner and Davis moved to FS – which might benefit Davis as well.

  9. Colonel Angus Says:

    Gotta start housing these turnovers JR!

  10. Marine Buc Says:

    He is a four year $60M with $35M guaranteed good… At least.

  11. T. McGee Says:

    SlyPirate… the 49ers GM was one of my favorites, but let’s face it, he’d spend more time suspended than on the field now. The Ronnie Lott /
    John Lynch version of intimidating safety is not allowed in today’s NFL.

  12. Eric Says:

    Is winfield playing tommorow

  13. Bring back the lawn chairs Says:

    He must be so lonely. He’s all alone. Surrounded by lawn chairs on most days. I give that man everything. He’s the real deal. Leads by example always, and never cowers like so many around him.

  14. Bring back the lawn chairs Says:

    If they could only clone him….

  15. orlbucfan Says:

    Hey joes, do me a favor and go back and do some background research on folks like Jason Licht. I have the Bucs blog bookmarked. Winfield was the 45th player picked in the 2020 draft? Really? That was Licht along with BA and Bowles. I feel for the Jax QB cos if Bowles lets DWhite play along with the rest of what’s still walking on D, he’s gonna get sacked. O and ST owes us Buc fans this one, and they’re healthy. Plus it’s a home game, dammit!