Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chris Godwin: 'We're Back, Man'

With the ink drying on his new long-term deal on Monday, WR Chris Godwin reflected on a whirlwind week, the Bucs' aggressive roster moves and what it means for the team in 2022

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Chris Godwin estimates that it was about 20 minutes before his "unretirement" announcement that Tom Brady hit up him and Mike Evans on the group text the three occasionally use. The three were at the core of the NFL's most prolific passing attack in 2021 and would now be riding together again in 2022, and Brady wanted his teammates to hear the good news from him. Godwin said that he and Evans were 'gassed up' after the exchange.

By this point, Godwin had already had the Bucs' franchise tag in his pocket for five days, but other roster developments started to happen fast after Brady's announcement. Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen and number-one corner Carlton Davis both re-signed before hitting the open market; the Bucs traded for Patriots guard Shaq Mason and swiped receiver Russell Gage from the Falcons. Finally, on Monday, Godwin himself officially signed the new three-year deal that would take the place of the franchise tag and keep him in Tampa long-term.

Godwin's future in Tampa was one of the many evolving factors that, over the course of about two weeks, would send the 2022 Buccaneers down one of many possible paths. Now the way forward is clear and the Buccaneers are doing largely what they did a year ago after winning Super Bowl LV: running it back for another season aimed at capturing the Lombardi Trophy.

"This last week has been a whirlwind for a lot of people," said Godwin on Monday at the press conference to announce his new deal. "But, I think it just restores faith in the Bucs' fanbase that we're back, man. We're not laying down for anybody, we're coming back to try and make it back to the top of the mountain. You need great players, you need great people to do that.

"Obviously, bringing Tom back was a huge piece. But, bringing back Ryan, CD, and myself by re-signing, those are going to be key pieces to our success this year. Hopefully, we've got a lot more pieces coming. But, I'm confident in our staff and in our organization to put together a great team like we've been the past couple of years."

The franchise tag for Godwin came before Brady's bolt-out-of-the-blue social media post on Sunday, but the Buccaneers had always held out hope that their 15-time Pro Bowl quarterback would pull his cleats back out of the closet. And if he did, the Brady-Godwin connection would be at the center of what they wanted to do on offense. Despite missing the last three games due to a knee injury in 2021, Godwin led the Buccaneers with 98 receptions and 1,103 receiving yards. Brady wasn't relying on his most frequent target less as the season wore on, but more; in one two-game stretch in December Godwin caught 25 passes. He was the team's best operator out of the slot, its most common provider of yards after the catch and still a dangerous threat on the outside as well.

"I know I speak for everybody here, that I can't imagine a Buccaneers' team, or offense, without Chris," said General Manager Jason Licht on Monday, with Godwin next to him and Godwin's wife, Mariah, in the front row. "Just elated that he's back. We've had a few conversations since, caught up over the weekend a little bit. He and Mariah are super-excited, but we are equally excited that they're back here with us and look forward to bigger and better things in the future."

Godwin faced the possibility of playing two straight years on the franchise tag before coming to an agreement on the longer-term deal. That was what he truly hoped what would be the outcome all along, both for the culture and for the very real chance to chase more championships.

"I definitely wanted to [stay in Tampa]," said Godwin. "It was hard for myself or Mariah to see us anywhere else, especially at this juncture. We love it here, and that was a priority for us. So, we couldn't be more happy that we're back.

"Honestly, I'm just grateful. From the time that we got here, Mariah and I have loved to call Tampa our home. I've met some tremendous people within this organization and have great relationships with everybody. So, I couldn't be more thrilled to be back at this for another three years and do what we are all here for – which is to chase a ring. I'm excited to get back to work, excited to get back with my guys. Just happy and thrilled. Very blessed."

In the end, Godwin's aforementioned knee injury – a torn ACL suffered early against the Saints in Week 15 – didn't have much impact on the Bucs' desire and strategy to bring the 26-year-old pass-catcher back. Still, with the contract work done, recovery from that injury becomes the number-one focus for Godwin and the Bucs' medical team, not that it wasn't already a top priority. Godwin has been working hard since his corrective surgery and feels good about his progress.

"I'm doing really well in my recovery," he said. "I'm very pleased with this process so far. Obviously, it's a long one. So, can't really project too far into the future. I just try to take it day-by-day, just like I have with my entire career. But, I like where I'm at right now. I'm feeling confident about this season, I'm excited that we're getting a lot of the guys back. It's a long road here, and I'm ready to be a part of the whole thing."

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