The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have placed the franchise tag on wide receiver Chris Godwin, who was due to become an unrestricted free agent on March 17. Godwin finished second on the team in 2020 with 65 catches for 840 yards and seven touchdowns, then led the Bucs with 232 receiving yards in the postseason. After pacing the team with 1,333 receiving yards and ranking second in the NFL in yards per game in 2019, Godwin played through a series of injuries in the first half of last season and remained a critical part of the team's run to its second Super Bowl championship.
The deadline to apply franchise or transition tags was Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET.
The Buccaneers used the "non-exclusive" franchise tag on Godwin, meaning he can negotiate with other teams but Tampa Bay retains a right to match any contract offer. If Godwin does sign with another team and the offer is not matched, that team must send two first-round draft picks to the Buccaneers.
The non-exclusive franchise tender offer is a one-year contract that becomes the player's salary for the upcoming season if and when he signs it. The calculation of the tender offer is based mainly on the top five salaries at the player's position from the previous year, though there are other factors, including the salary cap figures of the past five seasons and the projected cap figure for the upcoming season. In Godwin's case, the tender offer is expected to be roughly $15 to $16 million for the 2021 season.
The placement of the franchise tag does not mean that Godwin and the Buccaneers must or will stop negotiating on a new long-term contract to keep the young pass-catcher in Tampa. In fact, the tag is often utilized as a way for a team to extend its negotiating window with a player it wants to retain with a longer deal. For instance, the Buccaneers used a franchise tag in 2012 on kicker Connor Barth and eventually came to terms with Barth on a four-year deal later that spring.
Thus, the designation of Godwin as the Bucs' franchise player in 2021 makes it extremely likely that the team will keep its elite receiving duo of him and Mike Evans together for at least one more year, and perhaps for the long term.
Godwin was one of 24 players from the Buccaneers' Super Bowl championship roster who were set to become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year on March 17. Since only one tag can be used each year, the Buccaneers must now seek other means to try to retain the likes of Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Ryan Succop and others, if they so desire. Head Coach Bruce Arians has expressed the team's hopes of keeping as much of their Super Bowl team together as possible in 2021 to try to win a second consecutive title.
Godwin surely would have been a highly-coveted player if he had hit unrestricted free agency. In four seasons, the former third-round pick out of Penn State has recorded 244 receptions for 3,540 yards and 24 touchdowns. He was selected for the Pro Bowl after his third season, in which he caught 86 passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns. Since Arians' arrival in 2019, Godwin has been used extensively in the slot and has been one of the NFL's most productive players in that role. He is also one of the league's better blocking receivers and is involved heavily in the Bucs' run-blocking schemes.
"He brings so much more than targets," said Arians. "When you look at what he does as an outside receiver and a slot receiver, he's so unique in that regard. And then you put his blocking in there, so he's a huge part of what we do offensively. It's more than stats. It's also what the guy brings to the huddle. I think with all these guys, each and everyone is so different because of what they bring into the huddle. But Chris is very, very unique."
This is the sixth time the Buccaneers have utilized a franchise tag since the option was born in the original CBA in 1993. That year, Tampa Bay placed the tag on standout left tackle Paul Gruber, who responded with a five-game holdout but eventually signed a new long-term deal with the team. The Bucs also used the tag in 1999 on defensive end Chidi Ahanotu, in 2009 on wide receiver Antonio Bryant, in 2012 on Barth and last year on Barrett. This is the first time the Buccaneers have employed the franchise tag in two consecutive years.