Chris Godwin is one of the best young wide receivers in the entire NFL and this offseason will be the first time that the 24-year-old will hit free agency.
However, the Buccaneers have a laundry list of producers who must make a decision this offseason, including Godwin, linebacker Lavonte David, wide receiver Antonio Brown, defensive end Ndamukong Suh, and running back Leonard Fournette, among others.
With this long list of free agents on the market, the Buccaneers may see at least one of these players make a deal elsewhere, especially considering Barrett, David, and Godwin will all demand a hefty salary on the open market.
Godwin has been a staple in the Tampa offense since he has joined the team, even throughout a quarterback change from Jameis Winston to Tom Brady.
With consistent production for three consecutive seasons, could it be possible that Godwin would leave Tampa for his inevitable payday? Or will Godwin return to Tampa on the franchise tag or through a long-term deal?
To preview the Buccaneers' offseason, we're creating profiles for each impending free agent before the new league year begins. If provided, each player will have a market value projection included via Spotrac.com, along with arguments for and against a potential new contract.
Wide Receiver Chris Godwin
2020 stats (including playoffs): 16 games, 81 receptions, 1,072 yards, eight touchdowns
Previous contract: Rookie contract of four years, $3.2 million
Spotrac market value: $17.1 million annually
Godwin, who has been a contributor from very early on in his NFL career, will be one of the best wide receivers to hit free agency this offseason. With multiple teams yearning for talent and experience at the wide receiver position, it is now Godwin's time to collect his hard-earned cash.
The Penn State grad, who has collected 244 catches, 3,540 yards, and 24 touchdowns in his four short years in the NFL, has been a 1B to seven-year veteran Mike Evans for much of his career. Evans, who has the WR1 spot locked up, should stay in Tampa for the foreseeable future as he signed a five-year extension in 2018.
Godwin, who briefly took over Evans' spot for the team leader in receiving yards in 2019, accumulated 1,333 receiving yards to Evans' 1,157 yards on three more targets in Winston's final season as a Buccaneer.
In the regular season of 2020, Evans took his spot back with 1,006 yards thanks to Godwin's absence for four games as he dealt with a lingering finger injury. On only five fewer receptions, Godwin posted a respectable 840 receiving yards and seven touchdowns with Brady at the helm.
Godwin, who had a case of the drops throughout the playoffs, will still demand top dollar as teams are desperate for a top wide receiver to join their squads. Spotrac has his value at $17.1 million a year, which would price him around other top receivers such as Cooper Kupp and Stefon Diggs.
Although the WR1 sell is enticing to a guy like Godwin, there is plenty of value in staying put in Tampa Bay. Being a tandem with Evans with Brady leading the offense is hard to turn down, especially coming off of a Super Bowl win.
When both Godwin and Evans are on the field, opposing teams are forced to try and limit one or the other, which makes the duo so dangerous to play against.
Despite an average frame at 6-foot-1, 209 pounds, Godwin remains one of the best-run blockers at the wide receiver position in the entire league, which has made him a dependable three-down player within a loaded Buccaneers offense.
The franchise tag could also be a possible option for general manager Jason Licht and the Bucs, as a way to prolong the process of a long-term Godwin extension. Franchising tagging the talented third-round pick would be beneficial to both parties, as Godwin would likely receive around the amount he would get on the open market ($14-17 million, depending on the 2021 cap number), but would also be able to stay in Tampa, where he was drafted in 2017.
All signs point to Godwin wanting to continue his legacy in Tampa Bay, and both Licht and head coach Bruce Arians have made it crystal clear their intentions to bring Godwin back to the Bay. During the Super Bowl celebration, Arians wanted to make it public that Godwin was welcomed back with opened arms, stating publicly to Godwin that "Your ass ain't going nowhere!"
When asked about his future on Good Morning Football on February 12th, Godwin addressed the possibility of returning to Tampa.
“That would be great [to return to Tampa]. It would be key to keep the whole team together, you know the main guys together so we can run it back. But we understand what is going on and BA is a great coach and I am confident that the organization will figure it out. I love it here and I love Tampa and I got a really good bond with my dogs on the team and how we can perform.”
Although Godwin will take a listen to other offers if he is not franchised tagged, it is hard to picture Godwin leaving Tampa Bay, even if the price tag is more than Tampa can offer. Most of the teams that can afford Godwin have questionable quarterback situations, which could also be a factor in his decision.
Both options for the budding star are intriguing, but leaving one of the best situations in the league to take a WR1 spot with another team may not be worth the increase in pay. It is also worth noting that the state of Florida has no state tax, which is a perk that benefits Tampa in negotiations.
However, if Godwin were to hit free agency, teams like the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and Jacksonville Jaguars would surely monitor the 24-year-old's situation.
Still, the mutual interest to return to Tampa seems astronomically high, as both Licht and Arians should find a way to get Godwin to return to Tampa, even if it is not quite the $17.1 million price tag that Spotrac has him listed at. A long-term deal would be reassuring for both sides, but that may have to wait just a few more months as the rest of the Super Bowl core works on a way to come back to Tampa.