Last year, Chris Godwin got the fame. This year, he’s going to get the fortune.
Godwin, the former football All-Stater from Middletown High, had a breakout season in 2019 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his third year in the NFL he caught 86 passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games – he missed the final two games with a hamstring injury — and earned his first Pro Bowl berth.
Now he’s recognized as one of the top wide receivers in the league. And now he’s going to be paid a salary commensurate with that lofty status.
Godwin is scheduled to make $2.33 million in 2020, which ain’t bad for a kid from Middletown, and is a big increase from the $875,000 he earned in 2019. But it still isn’t close to his present value as a Pro Bowl receiver. For a point of reference, the Bucs’ other Pro Bowl receiver, Mike Evans, is set to make $16.5 million this coming season and Godwin’s next contract should approach or even exceed that.
The Buccaneers, of course, signed quarterback Tom Brady this offseason, as well as Brady’s former All-Pro teammate with New England, tight end Rob Gronkowski. So, they have big plans in Tampa Bay, and Bucs general manager Jason Licht has made it clear that Godwin is a big part of those big plans and they plan on renegotiating his contract – 2020 will be the final season of the four-year deal he signed as a third-round draft pick out of Penn State.
“First of all, we love Chris,” Licht told the Tampa Bay Times last week. “Everybody and anybody in the organization can tell you that Chris is a huge piece of this team and Chris is an impact player at the position. I’ve personally told Chris we want him to be here long-term and be a Buccaneer for life.”
As for when that new contract will be signed, sealed and delivered, Licht said the timing is unknown, but not the final result.
“In terms of when that happens? I can’t tell you right now when those talks will officially begin,” he said. “But I do know that he is in our plans for the long-term.”
There’s a good chance those talks will happen soon, since the Bucs have already taken care of their other high-priority, off-season business, like signing Brady and Gronkowski and dealing with the recently completed NFL draft, where most observers feel the Bucs did well, drafting All-American tackle Tristan Wirfs of Iowa with the 13th overall pick, along with safety Antoine Winfield of Minnesota in the second round and rugged running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn of Illinois in the third round.
So, not only is the future bright for Godwin individually, it’s also bright for a team that has known mostly gloom and doom throughout its history. In Godwin’s three years with the team, the Bucs have an overall record of 17-31 and historically they’ve been one of the worst teams in the NFL.
But they did finish 7-9 last season, their first under coach Bruce Arians, after consecutive 5-11 seasons, and now they’ve added Brady and Gronkowski.
However, even though those signings should help the team, they could hurt Godwin personally, at least in terms of statistics. The last three seasons, he played with erratic quarterback Jameis Winston, who last year attempted more passes (626) and threw for more yards (5,109 yards) and touchdowns (33) than any QB in the entire NFL, which means he was a wide receiver’s best friend. Of course, Winston was also a turnover machine – his 30 interceptions also led the league – and that’s not conducive to winning, which is why the Bucs didn’t re-sign him.
No quarterback wins more than Tom Brady and he’s obviously much better than Winston. But he doesn’t sling the ball like Winston, and adding Gronkowski will also hurt Godwin’s production. It’s no secret that Gronkowski was and probably still is Brady’s favorite target, and with the 42-year-old Brady’s arm strength not what it once was, he’ll be looking to dump the ball off to his tight end and running backs a lot of the time, which means fewer big plays and touchdowns for Godwin.
Of course, that will be a lot easier to deal with when he finally signs that new contract and starts cashing those big paychecks.