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Why the Bucs couldn’t get a Chris Godwin contract done

The reigning super bowl champions did something no other defending champion has ever done by returning every starter to their team for the following season in defense of their title. On top of that, they had all of their draft picks in this year’s draft so this should be a deeper and more talented roster than they even were in 2020. As though that weren’t enough, they are getting O.J. Howard back for 2021, someone who I believe will be a dark horse Pro Bowl pick. The front office has done an unbelievable job constructing this roster and they’re only getting better, but can they keep it up beyond this season?

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As a part of their strategy to return all of their starters, they needed to utilize the franchise tag on wide receiver Chris Godwin. According to Spotrac, they have the lowest available cap space heading into 2021 with less than $500,000. For perspective, the Giants have the next lowest at over $2.4 million and the Jaguars have the most at almost $30 million.

Without reaching a deal for a new Chris Godwin contract, the Buccaneers had to stomach a single year cap hit of almost $16 million as the cost of tagging him. They were able to pull it off this year, but looking ahead to 2022, they likely will need to part ways with some beloved players.

The Buccaneers have just over $18 million in projected cap space in 2022. Besides Godwin, players like Jason Pierre-Paul, Ryan Jensen, O.J. Howard, and William Gholston are just some of the names that will be hitting the free agent market at the end of the season. On top of that, Devin White, Vita Vea, and Lavonte David will all be a year closer to needing a new contract.

This front office will have some real tough decisions to make, so they were able to buy themselves another year to make them. They can wait to decide how they want to allocate their resources based upon a clearer understanding of what that cap will be in 2022, along with what the markets will be for all of these different positions.

They should also have a better understanding of Tom Brady’s future with the team. I believe the likely outcome is that Brady retires after 2022. They can start to prepare for their plans after Brady and his contract are no longer on the books.

If they rushed into a new Chris Godwin contract now, they would have gotten cap relief in 2021; however, they didn’t need it to keep any of their other starters or even to sign their draft picks. They could afford the tag cap hit all this year in exchange for flexibility and having another year before starting to make long-term decisions which will impact which of their young stars they can keep and which ones will have to move onto new franchises to get the compensation they deserve.

Although they’re risking the market for receivers being higher thanks to demand and an expanding cap, it’s a risk that they’ll smartly take as they have all of 2021 to assess players like Godwin, David, Pierre-Paul, Vea, White, Jensen, and Howard and negotiate deals around the same time.

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