The Bucs have a critical offseason in front of them, especially following the retirement of Tom Brady. While finding a quarterback is important, it might be more realistic to build out the rest of the roster first. The Bucs have a ton of quality free agents from their own roster that should be re-signed this offseason.
One of those free agents is Chris Godwin. There is no question the Bucs want Godwin to remain in Tampa Bay long-term. Pewter Report has also learned through several sources that Godwin loves Tampa Bay and wants to remain a Buccaneer. The discussion is going to come down to money and Godwin’s health. The latter could impact the former, both in Tampa Bay and on the open market. Godwin has battled nagging injuries during his career, and has now suffered a major one. Will that impact his best offers considering how the wide receiver market dipped a year ago?
I think Godwin will return to Tampa Bay, but the price will play a part in the receiver’s decision. Even if the Penn State standout is back, the Bucs still have a crying need at wide receiver. Since Antonio Brown was injured in Week 6 and then released, Tampa Bay hasn’t had a suitable No. 3 wide receiver. And in Bruce Arians’ offense, that is a massive concern.
Bucs WR Scotty Miller – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Few systems in the NFL prioritize the No. 3 receiver like the Bucs do. Arians’ offense relies heavily on high-caliber quarterback play and being four-deep at wide receiver. Obviously all of those pass catchers aren’t going to be All-Pros. But they need to be legitimate threats in their roles. In 2020, Scotty Miller excelled as the Bucs WR3 for the first half of the regular season. Then Brown was acquired, and shortly after the offense took off.
During Arians first season with Tampa Bay in 2019, the No. 3 wide receiver spot was a huge concern for the Bucs. It wasn’t until late in the year when Breshad Perriman finally emerged, finishing the year with 645 yards and six touchdowns while averaging almost 18 yards per catch.
The story was similar in Arizona, where Arians’ best Cardinals’ teams had four impressive wide receivers. In 2013, Andre Roberts was Tyler Johnson-esque as Arizona’s third receiver. So the Cardinals went out and drafted speedster John Brown, despite having Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd producing at a high level. Brown caught 48 passes for 696 yards and five touchdowns as rookie.
During the next season, the Cardinals offense peaked. Fitzgerald and Brown went over 1,000 yards, while Floyd checked in at 849. The next year Floyd, Brown and J.J. Nelson all finished between 446 and 568 receiving yards. Meanwhile David Johnson, used heavily as a receiver, recorded 879 receiving yards, behind only Fitzgerald on the team.
You get the picture, right?
Unless Bruce Arians offense has 3-4 threats at wide receiver, it can’t reach peak effectiveness. It seems unlikely a prime David Johnson-esque running back will be in the fold next season. If Rob Gronkowski retires as expected, finding a top-tier tight end is extremely unlikely.
If the Bucs want to maximize their offense for whoever plays quarterback, they need to be willing to exhaust options at wide receiver. Even if it means having to part ways with a few older starters like Ryan Jensen and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Bucs can do this several ways, and they may not even have to break the bank.
Bucs CB Brent Grimes – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
There are fits in free agency for the Bucs, with relatively cheap contract commitments. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, D.J. Chark, Cedrick Wilson and others make sense on paper. Will Fuller could be another fit, but his injury history will deter the Bucs. If Brady had returned, Allen Robinson or JuJu Smith-Schuster would have been outstanding fits on short contracts off dismal seasons. Now, both receivers are likely to head elsewhere.
Although free agency represents suitable options for the Bucs, the draft is where they can really strike gold. USC WR Drake London is the big-bodied receiver Arians and GM Jason Licht salivate over. If he runs a strong 40, there will be plenty of Bucs’ interest. But there’s a good chance London is off the board before pick No. 27.
Alabama’s Jameson Williams might be the best receiver in the class. The problem is, he’s coming off a torn ACL suffered in the National Championship Game. Could the injury cause him to slide down the board? Crazier things have happened, and wide receivers slide every year. Williams would be the ideal pick of the draft for Tampa Bay if they can land him. His speed and athleticism are exactly what the Bucs need.
If both those options are off the table, Ohio State’s Chris Olave could be a strong choice at No. 27. The lanky senior receiver made a living in Ohio State’s offense as a big play vertical threat. His fit into Tampa Bay’s attack would be relatively clean. He’s shown he can handle press coverage on the outside in big games during his Buckeyes’ career.
Arkansas’ wide receiver Treylon Burks is another option. At 6-3, 225 pounds, Burks is stacked with muscle and can beat you deep or at the catch point. He’s a Bucs prototype to the max. He also spent most of his college career playing in the slot, but has the skill set to play outside in the NFL.
There are a ton of good wide receiver fits for the Bucs in this draft class. Maybe they even draft two receivers, one in the later rounds. But Tampa Bay should not enter training camp in 2022 without pushing their current depth wideouts for roster spots. Miller, Johnson, Jaelon Darden, Perriman and Cyril Grayson haven’t earned that right. If the Bucs want to maximize whoever plays quarterback in 2022, they’ll do whatever it takes to provide a bevy of talented pass game options this offseason.