There are a number of quality wide receivers slated for free agency next month, but it sounds like the Bucs will keep one of them off the market. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Tampa is expected to engage Chris Godwin in talks on a long-term contract before the March 9 deadline for applying the franchise tag, and if those talks do not result in a deal, it sounds as if the team is prepared to use the tag on the Pro Bowl wideout (Twitter link).
We heard last April that the Bucs were eyeing an extension for Godwin, but it’s unclear how far those negotiations advanced. Between the lack of a new contract and the fact that Tampa has a number of other key free agents to make decisions on, there was some speculation that Godwin would be playing elsewhere in 2021. But it sounds as if that won’t be the case.
This season, Godwin did not quite return to the Pro Bowl form he displayed in 2019, but he was quite effective just the same. Although his 12.9 yards-per-reception mark was a career-low, that is largely attributable to the fact that the team transitioned from Jameis Winston to Tom Brady at quarterback. Godwin’s catch rate increased to a career-best 77.4%, and had he played in all 16 games — he missed four contests due to injury — he was on pace to eclipse 1,100 receiving yards. He also scored seven TDs.
Based on the expected salary cap of $180.5MM, the franchise tag number for Godwin would be $15.808MM (h/t Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com on Twitter). Godwin can probably do better than that on a long-term contract, as the top 12 wide receiver deals in the league feature AAVs of at least $16.2MM, but it’s a fair starting point in contract talks.
The Bucs are also interested in bringing back Antonio Brown, and while Rapoport says tight end Rob Gronkowski plans to take a few weeks to make a retirement decision, he will only play for Tampa if he chooses to return in 2021. Keeping the band together for what could be the final season of Brady’s career makes plenty of sense, though it could mean that a defensive free agent like Shaquil Barrett or Lavonte David will be squeezed out of the picture.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.