As time has come to pass, we’ve been able to look back and see that Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht has been incredible at drafting during his tenure in Tampa Bay. Sure, there was the 2016 class that featured noteworthy busts like Vernon Hargreaves, Noah Spence, and of course Roberto Aguayo. But outside of that draft, Licht has been hitting home runs, no matter what round, year after year.
Of them, there are a handful who stand out above the rest, and the one we want to focus on today is wide receiver Chris Godwin.
The Buccaneers drafted Godwin in the third round—THIRD ROUND—of the 2017 NFL Draft. At Penn State, Godwin passed the 1,000-yard mark as a sophomore in 2015, but then failed to do so again his junior season. However, he was able to more than double his touchdown production, going from five to 11. Godwin ended up being WR11 in the 2017 draft, and where that might look insulting on paper, it wasn’t as bad as you may think—it was still bad. That draft also had Corey Davis, Mike Williams, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Curtis Samuel, John Ross, and even Kenny Golladay, who went right after Godwin. With all those receivers to choose from, Godwin fell, and the Buccaneers are sure glad he did.
Fast forward four seasons and Godwin has established himself as one of the best young receivers in the game, and is now a Super Bowl champion to boot. He was inserted into a crowded Buccaneers wide receiver room early on with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Adam Humphries, but as Jackson and Humphries departed, Godwin had his chance to prove his worth and knocked it out of the park. In just 14 games in 2019, Godwin caught 86 passes for 1,333 receiving yards and nine receiving touchdowns on a 15.5 yards-per-catch average. That was the year he officially made it as one of the best at his position. This past season, though not as impressive statistically, was the icing on the cake for how good he can be.
As we enter the 2021 new league year, Godwin is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Spotrac has his market value at $17.1 million per season, which would make him the ninth-highest paid receiver in terms of average salary per season.
Spotrac cites Cooper Kupp, Jarvis Landry, and Brandin Cooks as the contracts closest to what Godwin’s situation could be with age and production. Kupp signed a three-year, $47.25 million deal ($15.75 million average) when he was 27 years old. Landry signed a five-year, $75.5 million deal ($15.1 million average) when he was 25. And Cooks signed a five-year, $81 million deal ($16.2 million average) when he was 24.
Godwin is 24 years old right now, but he’ll be 25 when he signs his new deal and when the 2021 season begins. Cooks had Godwin beat through four years in almost every category, but Godwin’s numbers are similar to that of Landry and Kupp. I do, however, believe Godwin will command more than those two given what he has meant to the Buccaneers over the last two seasons. He’s not just a receiver. Godwin is an integral part of Tampa Bay’s rushing game as one of their best skill position blockers. He does all the dirty work as well as all the flashy aspects of the position. He is a true versatile wide receiver who you can play in any concept in any alignment. That versatility will go a long way into his final numbers for his contract.
Just like it was when he was coming into the league, Godwin will enter a free agency wide receiver class that has plenty of big names. There are, of course, the names from his 2017 class that will be joining him: Smith-Schuster, Golladay, Samuel, Davis, Ross, as well as some added names like Allen Robinson, Will Fuller, A.J. Green, T.Y. Hilton, and Sammy Watkins. Though this time around, you’d be hard-pressed to find any free agent receiver wish list that didn’t have Godwin at the top or in the top three at worst.
There are plenty of teams who will be in the running for Godwin’s services if he hits free agency. The Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets have the two highest amounts of cap space in the league and would be interested. The New England Patriots and Washington Football Team also have north of $40 million to spend and need a top offensive playmaker. The Baltimore Ravens are another sneaky team that could make this pairing a fit.
However, I still don’t think Tampa Bay will let him go. Despite all the talent the Buccaneers have, they are very healthy in cap space. They have about $38 million in projected cap space, which is top 10 in the league. They can afford to bring back Godwin at a number that is around the $17-19 million he might command. Godwin is and should be their priority over some of the veterans that may want to get on the ride for another Super Bowl run.
Godwin will be one of the most coveted players in free agency, but I’m not so sure he even gets there.