Position Group: Wide Receivers
Players: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden, Scotty Miller, Breshad Perriman, Cyril Grayson
2021 Evaluation: It's amazing how quickly the tides can turn, isn't it? The wideout group started as perhaps the deepest position group for the Buccaneers in training camp but by the postseason, it became one of the biggest question marks.
This offense is a wide receiver's paradise. The Bucs passed on 66.2% of their offense plays and averaged a league-high 307.6 passing yards per game in the regular season. Tampa Bay quarterbacks (mostly Tom Brady) passed for a total of 5,229 yards – and hey, someone had to catch them. While Godwin was healthy, he had climbed into the top five in completions league-wide. Evans finished with the second-most touchdowns of any wide receiver in the league behind only Super Bowl LVI MVP Cooper Kupp. Things were firing on all cylinders in the beginning of the year and the Bucs' offense looked darn near unstoppable… until it was.
There was the suspension and subsequent drama with Antonio Brown and then the unthinkable happened to a receiver who was responsible for a significant portion of all those passing gains: Chris Godwin. He tore his ACL in the Bucs' Week 14 loss to New Orleans, literally adding injury to insult. Despite all that, Godwin still finished his season with 98 catches for 1,103 yards and five touchdowns while missing the last three regular season games.
It left Evans to carry the brunt of the receiving load, though he also missed Week 16 against the Panthers with injury. He was targeted seven times each in the final two games and scored three touchdowns to close out the regular season. In the playoffs, Evans caught nine of 10 targets against Philadelphia for 117 yards and a score. In the Divisional loss to the Rams, Evans was targeted a whopping 16 times. He caught eight passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. The disproportionate targets were a result of not only Godwin going down and Brown being let go, but rookie Jaelon Darden missed two games late in the season due to a concussion and dind't seem to come back the same. Perriman also missed time late in the season and was inactive against the Rams. Everything was on the shoulders of Evans, along with an increased target share for tight ends and running backs to keep the Bucs' offensive engine humming. And it did – statistically and otherwise.
2022 Outlook: It's no secret that Godwin is a pending free agent. He's actually the only one in the above list that the Bucs will not have under contract come next month. Even with Godwin currently rehabbing an ACL injury, there's little doubt how crucial he is to the Bucs' offense. He's a do-it-all receiver that can beat you anywhere on the field and quite frankly, those guys don't grow on trees. Finding someone else like him would be a tall task and Tampa Bay knows that. That being said, free agency is by definition unpredictable and anything can happen. The good news is that the Bucs have the rest of their wide receiver corps locked up and Evans will be a Buccaneer through at least 2024.
The major question mark left is then who will be under center and throwing these wideouts the ball with Brady retiring. That's an entirely separate article but if it's within a Bruce Arians offense, there will still be plenty of targets to go around.