The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could not come to terms with wide receiver Chris Godwin before Thursday’s deadline to sign franchise-tagged players to long-term contracts. He will now play the 2021 season on the tag, and that may be a scenario that suits both parties.
In reporting their failure to reach an agreement, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport said the Buccaneers will work to tie Godwin down to a long-term deal next offseason, when the odds of the two parties being able to find a resolution should substantially increase.
The Buccaneers succeeded in keeping their Super Bowl-winning core together this offseason, with edge rusher Shaquil Barrett opting to re-sign at arguably a slightly discounted rate of $17million per year having played the 2020 season on the franchise tag.
Tampa Bay will look to achieve something similar with Godwin, though the chances of getting Godwin at a team-friendly rate may be slim by next year if he plays with the efficiency he demonstrated last season.
Godwin missed four games in 2020 but was still the second most frequently targeted Bucs receiver behind Mike Evans, with Tom Brady throwing the ball his way 84 times. He led the Buccaneers with 70 receiving yards per game as he racked up 840 for the season and caught seven touchdown passes.
He was also the top Buccaneers receiver in terms of yards per target (10) and ranked among the best wideouts in the NFL by advanced efficiency metrics.
His yards per target average was 13th among wide receivers while he was 11th in Expected Points Added and fifth in quarterback rating when targeted (131.1), according to PlayerProfiler.
Godwin also ranked fifth in Football Outsiders Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which measures value per play, and 11th in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, a gauge of total value.
Those impressive numbers came in his first season with Brady, whom it was recently revealed led Tampa Bay to Super Bowl glory despite playing on a torn ACL.
If Brady’s knee is fully healed, it stands to reason that he, Godwin, and the entire Bucs offense could improve on their 2020 performance.
Godwin, therefore, is in an excellent spot to potentially establish himself as one the premier wideouts in the NFL. Set to earn nearly $16 million on the tag this year, he would have a very strong case for an average yearly salary to at least rival that of Evans—whose contract carries an average annual value of $16.5 million, per Spotrac—if he makes such a leap in 2021.
Re-signing Godwin could get expensive, but that is the price of success in the NFL and, fortuitously for the Buccaneers, they will have greater financial scope to do so next offseason.
Having retained their key free agents this offseason despite a shrinking salary cap, the Bucs are expected to have an increased cap of around $208 million to work with next year.
Scheduled to be $21.6 million under that cap according to Spotrac, the Bucs should theoretically have enough room to ink Godwin to a new deal, albeit one that may need to be backloaded with the larger cap hits later in the deal with the cap expected to continue to rise.
Having a player spend the season on the tag is not an ideal outcome for any party, but in this case Godwin will receive a 2021 salary reflective of his 2020 performance and has the opportunity to cash in next offseason.
The Bucs have bought themselves more time and should find negotiations easier next year when most teams will have the benefit of greater financial flexibility. Tampa has quickly gotten used to the taste of victory and the Godwin situation is one that could eventually prove to be a win-win for player and franchise.