NFL News & Analysis

Tampa Bay Buccaneers to franchise tag star WR Chris Godwin

Paradise, Nevada, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers placed the nonexclusive franchise tag on star wide receiver Chris Godwin, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Tuesday.

The move gives the team until July 15 to work out a contract extension. If the two sides can't strike a long-term deal, the Tampa Bay receiver will play on the projected $15.808 million tag for 2021. Godwin was the second-ranked free agent on PFF's free agency rankings.

Bringing back an important part of the offense is never a bad idea, but it’s especially shrewd with Godwin because he isn’t coming off his best season by any stretch. That, of course, increases the likelihood that he will be significantly better in 2021 than he was in his first year with Tom Brady at quarterback.

Godwin earned an overall PFF grade of just 75.5 in 2020, which wasn’t just almost 15 grading points down on the season before, but it was also the lowest of his NFL career.

Generally speaking, Godwin possesses some of the best hands in football, but he turned into a drop machine in the 2020 playoffs, allowing seven passes to hit the ground. Godwin dropped nine passes in total on the season, which was more than double his career total heading into the year. Still, drops are a noisy, volatile statistic, so the chances are that Godwin doesn’t have that problem again next season.

With Antonio Brown also scheduled to be a free agent, the Bucs could have suddenly been dealing with a questionable-looking depth chart at receiver if they had not been able to tie Godwin down. They likely would have been running into the season with Mike Evans, Tyler Johnson and the tight end group carrying the bulk of the load.

Godwin is a player who can excel when lined up in the slot or out wide. Over the last two seasons (including the playoffs), he's played 1,037 snaps in the slot and 706 snaps out wide. And even with all of the drops, he still generated a 120.2 passer rating when the ball came his way last season, just one year after he posted a mark of 121.7 with Jameis Winston at quarterback.

PFF’s 2021 NFL free agency rankings offer three-year player grades, updated contract information, in-depth player analysis and PFF’s newly developed wins above replacement (WAR) metric for all of the top NFL free agents. Click here to see the full list.

What it means for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After a long day of fun in the sun celebrating his recent Super Bowl victory, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians made it clear he wanted every important piece of Tampa’s roster back in 2021.

Godwin getting the franchise tag was expected, but it does open the door for edge defender Shaquil Barrett to hit free agency and explore his options across the league.

Barrett is a former undrafted free agent of the Denver Broncos, finally set to reach unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career. He could be in line for a huge offer from a handful of teams.

The seven-year vet has tallied 157 regular-season pressures since 2019, the most among all edge rushers in the NFL over the last two seasons. He finished the 2020 season on a high note, as well, with 10 pressures in Super Bowl 55.

Barrett could be looking for $20 million per year on the open market at this point, and someone may pony up. Keep an eye on the Jacksonville Jaguars, not too far a trip for Barrett as he finally cashes in.

What it means for Godwin and the wide receiver market

Godwin wasn't quite able to replicate his incredible 2019 campaign, but he showed tremendous toughness and perseverance playing through several injuries last season, including a broken index finger on his left hand. He still managed to play at a high level despite all of that, and of course the Buccaneers capped off their season with a Lombardi Trophy, which makes everything look a little brighter.

Nevertheless, Tampa Bay used the franchise tag on edge defender Shaquil Barrett for the 2020 season — a second tag would have cost them just under $19 million — and he now needs a big-time extension following another excellent season he capped off with 10 pressures in Super Bowl 55.

Longtime star linebacker Lavonte David may also get a new deal from Tampa Bay, leaving the younger Godwin as the potential odd man out.

If Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II and Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay avoid the franchise tag from their respective clubs, they’re now the clear-cut No. 1 and No. 2 options on the market. Godwin had the edge in terms of age, as he’ll be 25 years old in Week 1 of 2021 compared to 28 years old for Robinson and Golladay. 

In contrast to Robinson and Golladay, who serve as true X wide receivers on the outside, Godwin operates more out of the slot. However, it’s possible some of that has to do with Mike Evans’ presence in Tampa.

The Godwin tag is great news for the rest of the wide receiver market, including guys further down the free agent board such as Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, who also gets most of his work done in the slot. 

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