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.
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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.
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
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)
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.
I don't think I've ever seen JPP get absolutely ruined like this, and by a tight end?? Marcedes Lewis is a tank pic.twitter.com/7t1AlBjAQk
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.