While the Bucs are focused on keeping their Super Bowl LV champion team together by re-signing their own free agents, Tampa Bay will be looking to upgrade a number of positions. PewterReport.com takes a look at each unit over the next week, showcasing which players Tampa Bay could lose, and which players might replace them, including our Bucs’ Best Bets.

2021 Bucs Free Agent WRs/TEs

WR Chris Godwin
WR Antonio Brown
TE Rob Gronkowski
TE Antony Auclair

There’s some big names on Tampa Bay’s own wide receiver/tight end free agent list, as the team boasts arguably the top wide receiver and top tight end in the 2021 market. It would be surprising to see either Godwin or Gronkowski in another uniform next season however, so there isn’t quite as much drama surrounding their availability as there normally would be for free agents of their caliber.

Bucs WR Chris Godwin

Bucs WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

If a long-term deal can’t be reached with Godwin before March 9, expect the Bucs to use the franchise tag on their star wide receiver, which is slated to be somewhere around $16 million for the 2021 season. They will then have until July 15 to reach a long-term deal with Godwin before he has to play on the tag.

As for Gronkowski, expect him to return on a one- or two-year deal for somewhere between $4-6 million per year, with incentives built in for hitting certain numbers. He wants to stay in Tampa Bay, close to where his mother lives and on a team with Super Bowl aspirations where he can catch passes from Tom Brady, the only quarterback he’s ever played with. Brown may feel similarly, but his off-field history makes his price tag tougher to gauge. My guess is he’s back with the Bucs on a one year deal for $3 million with incentives, but you never know if someone will throw more significant money at a player with his talent on the open market.

Top NFL Free Agent Wide Receivers/Tight Ends Available

WRs

1. Chris Godwin – Bucs
2. Allen Robinson – Bears
3. Kenny Golladay – Lions
4. JuJu Smith-Schuster – Steelers
5. Will Fuller – Texans

Others: A.J. Green (Bengals), T.Y. Hilton (Colts), Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals), Tyrell Williams (Raiders), DeSean Jackson (Eagles), Sammy Watkins (Chiefs), Marvin Jones (Lions), Corey Davis (Titans), John Ross (Bengals), Keelan Cole (Jaguars), Antonio Brown (Bucs), Curtis Samuel (Panthers), Nelson Agholor (Raiders), Josh Reynolds (Rams), Tim Patrick (Broncos), Allen Lazard (Packers), Breshad Perriman (Jets), Willie Snead (Ravens), Kendrick Bourne (49ers)

TEs

1. Rob Gronkowski – Bucs
2. Hunter Henry – Chargers
3. Jonnu Smith – Titans
4. Jared Cook – Saints
5. Gerald Everett – Rams

Others: Tyler Kroft (Bills), Tyler Eifert (Jaguars), Jacob Hollister (Seahawks), Marcedes Lewis (Packers), Jordan Reed (49ers), Trey Burton (Colts), Kyle Rudolph (Vikings), Dan Arnold (Cardinals)

Bucs’ WR/TE Outlook

It would be shocking if the Bucs look for wide receiver help beyond their own free agents this offseason. With Mike Evans, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, Jaydon Mickens, Justin Watson and Cyril Grayson under contract already for the 2021 season, the Bucs would have a decent receiving corps even if Godwin and Brown didn’t return. With Godwin almost certain to be back and Brown likely looking at limited options in free agency, the Bucs probably won’t touch the receiver position until the draft, if they even do it then.

As long as Gronkowski is back, the tight end room looks pretty set as well. O.J. Howard should return from a torn Achilles to play out the fifth-year option year on his rookie deal, which will relegate Cam Brate to a lesser role in the meantime. That will almost certainly mean at least another pay cut for Brate, if not being released altogether. The Bucs could use the cap space, and Brate will certainly see more playing time and get more money somewhere else.

In the event that Brate’s $6.5 million cap hit isn’t retained, the Bucs could look to free agency to fill their third tight end spot. Auclair hasn’t worked out as a blocker, and Tanner Hudson hasn’t developed much as a receiving option. Because the Bucs ask so much of their tight ends in the run game, and will be without their jumbo tight end in Joe Haeg next season, longtime NFL veteran Marcedes Lewis could be an intriguing fit. The soon-to-be 37 year-old has said he has no plans to retire, has never won a ring, would be very cheap and is still one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL. If the Bucs can wrestle him away from Green Bay, Lewis would make a perfect TE3 in Tampa Bay if Auclair and Brate depart.

Bucs’ Best Bet – WR Chris Godwin

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Chris Godwin

Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Chris Godwin – Photo by: USA Today

Of all the Bucs free agents this offseason, these two seem to be the most certain to return to Tampa Bay for at least the 2021 season. Head coach Bruce Arians covets Godwin in his offense, as the fifth-year receiver is clearly the high volume weapon for Tom Brady in Byron Leftwich’s passing attack. It would be awesome if Godwin could come to terms on a long-term deal with the team, but he knows his value will be a lot higher next offseason, when the cap is up and he’s likely coming off his second 1,000-yard season playing in what should be a prolific offense.

Bucs’ Best Bet – TE Rob Gronkowski

As for Gronkowski, it’s more than likely just a matter of setting up the incentives in his contract. He’s already said he wants to keep playing and expects to be back in Tampa Bay, so it would be a surprise to see him even reach free agency. As long as the Bucs retain their top two free agent weapons, they should be pretty set at wide receiver and tight end heading into the 2021 season.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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Pete Wood
4 months ago

Everybody we want to come back is coming back. Count on it.

FLBoy84
4 months ago

As much as I like Brate and appreciate his play over the years, letting him go and bringing in someone like Lewis for less $$ makes too much sense. Hoping OJ can stay healthy a full season, but if not, Lewis is still serviceable as a #2 with the additional weapons in this offense if needed. With OJ’s health challenges, one of the silver linings for the team is that it should help suppress his value a bit when he negotiates a new deal at least.

Last edited 4 months ago by FLBoy84
AlbJack65
Reply to  FLBoy84
4 months ago

Lewis serviceable as a #2? Well let’s see. Lewis:40 targets, 302 yards and 4 TD’s in 47 games over the last 3 years. Brate: 138 targets, 882 yards and 12 TD’s in 48 games over the last 3 years. Keeping a steady sure-handed Brate by restructuring instead of counting on Howard(who is nearing bust status based on his mid-1st round selection) to stay healthy or a 37 year old washed up vet is a much more logical route to take. The logical and prudent choice is to trade Howard for a 4th or 5th round pick and move on. Brate… Read more »

AlstottSmash
4 months ago

Don’t make me change my name now Bucs :D

Horse
4 months ago

I would sign Brate; probably ask him to take 1million less. This is Howard’s last chance to show consistency. Not sure Gronk would take anything less than 4 million and 2 million worth of bonuses. Don’t forget this is a 17 game season.

Spitfire
Reply to  Horse
4 months ago

Brate would need to cut his salary in half to stay. He may wanna make more somewhere else but he could stay here indefinitely at a reasonable price. Howard may not be back next year if he gets hurt yet again and Brate has some of the best hands on the team. Hopefully they can get his cap down to the right spot and he just stays as long as he can:

drdneast
Reply to  Horse
4 months ago

Your asking Gronk to make less than Brate and that isn’t going to happen. I like the idea of incentives. I like Brate at $6 mill with $1 million in incentives and Brate for $4 million. Cap savings of $5 million between the two. I’m not sure Brate is going to get more than $5 million on the open market because he is mainly a pass catching TE. If he signs in Cali, NY or other states he’s going to have to pay income taxes on that money. If he stays here he has a good chance to catch another… Read more »

Brandonges
4 months ago

I’d rather trade Howard than cut Brate. O.J. has yet to stay healthy for a full season and Cam proved his chemistry with Brady and how valuable he is in the playoffs.

Spitfire
4 months ago

Why is Haeg set to be gone? I know he didn’t prove to be much of a backup Guard but he will settle in to the 6th lineman position even better this season and at least provides depth if there’s an injury. Stinnie proved to be our best backup Olineman and maybe they use him as the 6th man next year but we still need to find better Oline depth either in the Draft or FA. I guess in the end the goal would be to find a blocking TE that can replace Haeg while also having solid hands to… Read more »

drdneast
Reply to  Spitfire
4 months ago

The emergence of Stinne as a more productive blocker has rendered the need for Haag to hang around any longer useless at his current price

drdneast
4 months ago

I don’t know why you guys always seem so anxious to get ride of Brate, He sure is more reliable and dependable than Howard who spends as much time on IR as Jack Cinchy.
Brate would probably be willing to renegotiate his contract and hopefully Gronk isn’t going to demand 9.5 million If both take a couple of million pay cut you are still saving money and loosening up valuable cap space.

scubog
Reply to  drdneast
4 months ago

There’s always a couple of players deemed expendable and perhaps not worthy of their salaries, so folks think they can be traded and dupe another team out of a decent Draft pick. Did that with QB Craig Erikson when we, as Scott Brantley would say,”hoodwinked” the Colts out of a # 1. Over the course of Bucs history, it was us who had the wool pulled over our eyes more often than not. People always mention releasing Cameron Brate because he’s a B-level player making a relatively high salary. I don’t think either Gronk or Brate is going anywhere. Perhaps… Read more »