The Path For Tyler Johnson As Buccaneers' WR3

Photo: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

You'd be hard-pressed to find an NFL team that improved their roster, and future outlook, more than the Buccaneers did this offseason.

It started with an addition by subtraction when Tampa Bay made it clear quarterback Jameis Winston was not its first choice moving forward, which gave way to the Buccaneers making the biggest offseason news by signing six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady for at least the next two seasons.

The ripple effect led to more signings. The Buccaneers brought back most of their defense from the previous season, which ranked in the top-five in the latter half of the year, and tight end Rob Gronkowski came aboard to bring back one of best the QB/TE pairings to ever play the game.

If Tampa Bay’s good fortune and impactful additions stopped there, it would have been labeled a successful offseason. However, the Buccaneers continued their positive moments into the 2020 NFL Draft. In the first round, Tampa Bay selected Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs. On Day 2, the Buccaneers drafted key players in safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn.

But the real cherry on top of the Buccaneers’ offseason was when they landed Minnesota wide receiver Tyler Johnson on Day 3.

Now, why would a fifth-round addition to a passing attack that already features Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and Gronkowski matter? The WR3 position is very important in Burce Arians’ offense.

Last season, as the WR3, Breshad Perriman saw 69 targets for 36 receptions, 645 receiving yards and six touchdowns. The bulk of those statistics were accumulated when Evans and Godwin went down with injury and Perriman had to take on a larger role; but Tampa Bay tried to emphasize him more during the first half of the season, a time in which he was not consistent enough to make an impact.

Perriman is now gone, and though the Buccaneers have receivers Scotty Miller and Justin Watson still on the roster, it would benefit them more if Johnson were to emerge. The Buccaneers like to be multiple with their receivers. They play in a lot of three-receiver sets and like to use them interchangeably. In one play, Evans could be used as a slot receiver, the next it might be Godwin and the next Johnson.

Johnson saw time as an outside receiver for Minnesota, but he also had one of the highest grades of any wide receiver, according to Pro Football Focus, in the slot. This is where he can be valuable. 

Miller is a smaller, quicker receiver and it limits where he can align; the same can be said with Watson as an outside receiver. Johnson was a contested-catch stud in college and did his best work from the middle of the field. He presents the Buccaneers with more versatility than anyone else on the roster to complement Evans and Godwin and can allow them to be more versatile.

In a deep receiving corps, Johnson has a potential pathway to contributing at the top in Year 1.