The NFL's 2020 season calendar extends through March 16; at 4:00 p.m. on the 17th, the 2021 campaign will begin and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will officially transition from champions to defending champions.
At the same time, 2021 free agency will begin and the Buccaneers will potentially face a long list of players needing new contracts. The length of that list will depend on how much work the team can get done with several dozen members of their Super Bowl LV-winning roster who are not yet under contract for the upcoming season.
Head Coach Bruce Arians believes the Buccaneers have a good shot at keeping the core of the team intact for another championship run. There is reason for optimism, given the apparent motivation of many of those pending free agents to keep the team together, but it's going to take a lot of work. Some of that work may already be underway with that new league year less than a month away.
And so, in the weeks leading up to the start of the new league year, we are going to look at 10 key players who are currently poised to become unrestricted free agents on March 17. We started with linebacker and revered team captain Lavonte David earlier this week; now we turn our attention to the player who led Tampa Bay's high-powered passing attack in receiving yards in the postseason.
Player: Chris Godwin
Position: Wide Receiver
Age: 24 (turns 25 on Feb. 27)
Experience: Entering Fifth NFL season
How Acquired: Drafted out of Penn State in the third round (84th overall) in 2017
Previous Contract(s): In 2020, Godwin completed the standard four-year rookie contract he signed after being drafted in 2017.
Rank in Pro Football Focus Top 150 NFL Free Agents for 2021: Second. PFF comment: "Godwin is an exceptionally talented and versatile receiver who has great hands — dropping just four passes in his first three seasons— and he has excelled from both an outside and slot alignment."
2020 Performance: From a volume standpoint, Godwin's production in 2020 dropped off quite a bit from his enormous breakout campaign of 2019. However, that was primarily due to a string of injuries during the first half of the season and the team's deeper-than-ever core of offensive weapons.
Godwin's 840 yards and 7 touchdowns on 65 catches was down from his 2019 line of 86-1,333-9 but he still finished second on the team in all those categories to fellow starter Mike Evans (Rob Gronkowski also had seven touchdown catches). He missed four of the season's first eight games due to, in order, a concussion, a hamstring strain and a fractured finger but he had four touchdowns in the last three games before the playoffs and finished the regular season with his first 100-yard outing in a win over Atlanta. That propelled Godwin to a productive postseason in which he caught 16 passes for a team-leading 232 yards and one more score.
Godwin continued to be the Bucs most productive player of the slot, lining up there on 45% of his snaps. He also continued to provide value far beyond the stat sheet as he was once again one of the best and most willing blockers in the NFL. His presence lined up "tight" on 19% of his snaps, far higher than most receivers, is an indication of how often he was purposely deployed as part of the primary blocking scheme on running plays.
Career Accomplishments: Godwin was the 11th receiver taken in the 2017 NFL Draft but his numbers through the first four seasons of his career rank among the best from that draft class. His 244 receptions rank third behind JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cooper Kupp; his 3,540 yards are third behind those same two; his 24 touchdowns are tied for second behind Smith-Schuster; his 14.51 yards per reception are second behind Mike Williams and his 9.97 yards per target lead the entire class.
Godwin's biggest season so far was the aforementioned 2019 campaign in which he finished second to the Saints' Michael Thomas with 95.2 receiving yards per game. That's the single best season in terms of yards per game for any receiver drafted in 2017. Those efforts earned Godwin his first Pro Bowl selection at the end of his third NFL season.
Other Potential Free Agent Wide Receivers: Nelson Agholor (Las Vegas), Danny Amendola (Detroit), Antonio Brown (Tampa Bay), Keelan Cole (Jacksonville), Corey Davis (Tennessee), Will Fuller (Houston), Kenny Golladay (Detroit), WR A.J. Green (Cincinnati), T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis), Marvin Jones (Detroit), Allen Robinson (Chicago), Curtis Samuel (Carolina), JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pittsburgh), Sammy Watkins (Kansas City)
Top Wide Receiver Prospects in 2021 NFL Draft: Rashod Bateman (Minnesota), Ja'Marr Chase (LSU), Terrance Marshall (LSU), Rondale Moore (Purdue), Chris Olave (Ohio State), DeVonta Smith (Alabama), Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC), Kadarius Toney (Florida), Jaylen Waddle (Alabama), Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)