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Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds answers your questions from the @PewterReport Twitter account each week in the Bucs Monday Mailbag  Submit your question to the Bucs Monday Mailbag each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Here are the questions we chose to answer for this week’s edition.

QUESTION: This offseason, the number one priority has to be re-signing Chris Godwin. That being said, what’s a good number the Bucs would be comfortable with to bring him back?

ANSWER: Before we talk about Chris Godwin, let’s first discuss his teammate, Mike Evans. He’s the 10th highest-paid wide receiver in the league right now, averaging $16.5 million per season. Evans is also the greatest offensive weapon in franchise history, holds all the team’s receiver records, is a three-time Pro Bowler and a team captain. Would the Bucs want to have Godwin make more than Evans? How would that sit with Evans?

I don’t think it would be an issue because Evans is unselfish, but I do think that Tampa Bay would still like to see Evans make more than Godwin because of his consistency. He’s had seven straight 1,000-yard seasons and is on his way to an eighth. A perfect fit for Bruce Arians’ offense as the slot receiver, Godwin is on his way to his second 1,000-yard season in four years in Tampa Bay.

Bucs WRs Chris Godwin and Mike Evans

Bucs WRs Chris Godwin and Mike Evans – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The league’s highest-paid receiver is Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins, who earns an average of $27.25 million per year. Godwin is playing this year on the franchise tag and making $15.93 million in 2021. So far he’s having a career year, especially on the heels of his franchise-record 15 catches for 143 yards in Tampa Bay’s 30-17 win in Atlanta.

Godwin has 82 catches for 949 yards and five touchdowns in addition to a rushing TD with five games left. He’s is averaging 6.8 catches for 79 yards per game. That puts him on pace for 115 receptions for 1,344 yards and seven TDs. Godwin’s career season came in 2019 when he caught 86 passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns.

I think the Bucs would prefer to pay Godwin somewhere between $16 million to $16.45 million per season and keep him as the second highest-paid receiver on the team behind Evans ideally. The exploding wide receiver market in free agency would suggest Godwin could make more than that elsewhere. So Tampa Bay might have to pay Godwin more to keep him if he doesn’t give the team a hometown discount. One thing is for sure, Godwin certainly has lived up to his franchise player status so far this year.

QUESTION: Do you think the Bucs are looking at their strength and conditioning program? So many injuries this year.

ANSWER: Let’s look at the major injuries that have occurred. First there was cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting’s dislocated elbow against Dallas in Week 1, in addition to outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul’s torn rotator cuff in his shoulder. Those are freak injuries that just happen sometimes. Nothing a strength and conditioning program can do to prevent those joint injuries.

In Week 3, tight end Rob Gronkowski breaks his ribs getting hit hard and driven into the turf in Los Angeles. There is nothing the strength and conditioning staff can do to safeguard against that. Cornerback Jamel Dean suffered a knee injury, but came back in two weeks. In Week 4, cornerback Carlton Davis III suffered a quad injury. Perhaps he overtrained, or the muscle just gave out due to fatigue.

In Week 6, cornerback Richard Sherman suffered a hamstring injury and missed several weeks. Yet Sherman is 33 years old and hadn’t attended one NFL OTA or training camp day to get in proper shape for the 2021 regular season. He practiced for three days and then started at New England. Then he wound up starting three games in 12 days and his hamstring just gave out.

Safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. and cornerback Dee Delaney suffered concussions in the first half of the season and missed some time, while Dean suffered a bruised shoulder while making a tackle at Indianapolis. Those are the biggest injuries this year, and while there has been a rash of them, it has been different body parts for different players at different ages – with Sherman and the 31-year old Pierre-Paul being close to the end of their respective careers.

This isn’t like the hamstring injuries at the end of the 2019 that caused Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller to all wind up on injured reserve in December. That prompted the Bucs to change the way they practice. Tampa Bay might have the best sports science department in the NFL, aiding the strength and conditioning staff. While injuries have rocked the secondary this year, especially at cornerback, most of them have been fluky and there is no common dominator.

QUESTION: When is Byron Leftwich going to get more creative with all the offensive weapons the team has?

ANSWER: As Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard has said, the Bucs don’t rely so much on scheme to get players open. They rely on skill. Most of the time offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich counts on his weapons to win their individual one-on-one battles either in man coverage or finding holes in zone coverage. Choice routes – or option routes – against zone coverage help the Bucs receivers, backs and tight ends accomplish that.

Bucs QB Tom Brady and OC Byron Leftwich

Bucs QB Tom Brady and OC Byron Leftwich – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

We’ve seen Leftwich show some creativity. I thought the Bucs’ opening touchdown drive against the Giants on Monday night was one of the best offensive drives I’ve ever seen in my 26 years of covering this team. That drive had three play-action passes, including a touchdown to Chris Godwin on a rare play-action screen, back-to-back end-arounds and some up-tempo. The issue I have is that we don’t see enough creativity often enough.

It’s hard to nit-pick what the Bucs are doing offensively. Through 12 games, Tampa Bay is leading the NFL with 31.4 points per game, and is the only team averaging over 30 points per game right now. What’s even better is that the Bucs have scored 30 points in back-to-back road games and are getting back to last year’s routine. That’s a very good sign as this 9-3 team inches towards the playoffs.

QUESTION: Any chance the NFL flexes the Bills at Bucs game?

ANSWER: While the Bears (4-8) at Packers (9-3) game may not feature two playoff teams like the Bills (7-4) at Bucs (9-3) game will, it’s a December game in Green Bay. There’s no forecast for snow next Sunday as of right now, but you never know. And the Packers vs. Bears game is one of the biggest rivalries in football with a nationwide appeal – especially with the Chicago television market.
Aaron Rodgers is one of the biggest stars in the game, and given his COVID controversy, he’s also one of the most newsworthy right now. Plus with the Packers and Bucs currently tied for second in the NFC, there are playoff implications in this game – at least for Green Bay.
Per NFL rules, the league needs to flex games 12 days prior, so we’re past that window for Week 14. Also, Tampa Bay will host New Orleans on Sunday Night Football the following week. It’s rare that a team has been on back-to-back Sunday night games. Yet another reason why the Bucs won’t be on Sunday Night Football – until they host the Saints on December 19.

QUESTION: The secondary hasn’t been healthy all year. Do you think Tampa Bay gets healthy for the postseason run (barring any further injuries)?

ANSWER: The Bucs were so close to having their entire secondary intact for the Falcons game on Sunday – until safety Jordan Whitehead’s calf injury. The original Grave Diggers secondary hasn’t played together since the first half of Week 1. If Whitehead’s calf injury isn’t too severe, there is a chance that all of the DBs can see playing time together again in a few weeks.

Bucs SS Jordan Whitehead

Bucs SS Jordan Whitehead – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Wide receiver Antonio Brown should return from his heel injury – and his suspension – in Week 16. When he and Whitehead return, the Bucs should be back to full strength. The key for Tampa Bay will be staying healthy down the stretch to the postseason.

But keep in mind, the Bucs weathered the postseason without linebacker Devin White and running back Ronald Jones II in Washington, and without right guard Alex Cappa in New Orleans, Green Bay and against Kansas City in Super Bowl LV. Tampa Bay also won without Brown and Winfield for the whole game in Green Bay, and in the second half without Whitehead. Thanks to the moves by general manager Jason Licht and his front office, the Bucs are deep enough to weather some injuries in December and January, should they occur.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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Pete Wood
Pete Wood
5 months ago

Call me crazy, but I think Byron Leftwich is doing a great job. I don’t want creative. I want wins and offensive stats and Leftwich has plenty of both. You want creative? Creative gets you a pick six from inside your own ten yard line with seconds left at the end of the half.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Pete Wood
5 months ago

You’re not crazy at all, compared to some around here who clearly ARE crazy in continually criticizing and dissing the offensive coordinator of the highest scoring team in the NFL to date this season.

The other factor, of course, is that Tom Brady calls the plays anyway, at the line of scrimmage, regardless of what Byron Leftwich says in his headset. As the broadcasting team on yesterday’s game said several times, “Brady always has the chalk when the ball is snapped.” And that’s working fantastically well, so screw the grumblers.

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  Naplesfan
5 months ago

Brady had two plays when he comes to the LOS, the one that Lefto has called and one he can call into. Just because the Bucs are doing well doesn’t mean they couldn’t do a lot better.with a better OC.

Pete Wood
Pete Wood
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

Fire the whole coaching staff, I say! Bunch of lazy landlubbers! A good coaching staff would have won two Super Bowls last year.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  Pete Wood
5 months ago

Experts …. how on earth could our Super Bowl winning and first place by four games in the NFC South coaches and GOAT ever possibly function without their expert playcalling and coaching of all those couch sitters? I swear, the fantasy football culture has totally warped a large chunk of the fan base and writers and commenters here at PR .. convincing themselves that because they randomly picked some players to start who happened to have a good game last week, why that is every bit as skillful as actually coaching a real flesh and blood NFL team to a… Read more »

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

Impossible to do better than best in the league in scoring. Impossible to do better than the GOAT calling the plays at the LOS regardless of who on the sidelines or in the booth is ostensibly calling the plays. Brady always has the chalk when the ball is snapped. The real value of the offensive coordinator, when you have the GOAT under center is game planning .. the back and forth exchange between coaches and players and Xs and Os the week prior, on what to look for from the other team and how best to counter it. Seems to… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Naplesfan
fredster
fredster
Reply to  Pete Wood
5 months ago

I think Leftys play calling backed up was dumb not creative. Maybe he was trying to be creative but I’m general Horizontal passes inside 10-15 yards is very risky. It’s just not smart imo. I think imo overall he’s done good to very good. I can’t say amazing or great though. To me he has best talent in NFL and he still could use play action more and avoid taking unnecessary risks backed up.

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  Pete Wood
5 months ago

That’s not creative, that is just stupid which Lefto has a big jar of.

scubog
scubog
Reply to  drdneast
5 months ago

Still promoting your agenda with “your truth”. Seems to me this “being creative” is more for a magic show than a football game. All I care about is the ‘W’. It’s the destination, not the bus ride that’s important. Even with love making, using Jerry Seinfeld’s “swirl” move to be creative doesn’t matter if at the end of the conjugal visit your partner is disappointed with the result.

Lawdy
Lawdy
5 months ago

i think if bills win tonight, they flex, if they dont, then no

gcolerick
gcolerick
5 months ago

When you look at his complete game (route running, receiving and blocking) I believe Chris Godwin is one of the top five receivers in the league. I think a good number for Godwin will be around 20 million. Whatever the number is, they can’t let this guy go. Antonio Brown has proven he can not be relied upon. His ship may have already sailed and if it hasn’t it is hard to believe one more bad decision won’t be his undoing. If you lose Brown and Godwin it becomes slim pickings in the wide receiver room.

surferdudes
surferdudes
5 months ago

Not sure you can pay two receivers as number ones. Going to be some tough decisions to make seasons end on players, and the salary cap.

bucballer
bucballer
Reply to  surferdudes
5 months ago

That’s what we r doing now with Evans and Godwin???

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
Reply to  bucballer
5 months ago

Only $16mil on a 1 year deal, some teams can offer Godwin upwards $20mil on a 5yr contract and the Bucs are not doing that. Too many mouths to feed!

bucballer
bucballer
Reply to  Captain Sly
5 months ago

I hear ya Captain! Going to be interesting for sure.

Horse
Horse
5 months ago

How could anyone bark at Byron? The play calling has been good. Our Defense has been up and down due to injuries. We are 9-3; not bad for all the wounded ducks we have on board. Go Bucs! Keep the Repeat Alive!

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
5 months ago

As valuable as Chris Godwin certainly is, now that he is already nearing a 1,000+ yard receiving season with 5 games yet to play, let’s not forget Leonard Fournette, who has already surpassed 1,000 yards from scrimmage – the first Buc to do so, with 1,067 yards as of yesterday. He also has 9 touchdowns so far, second on the offense, compared to 10 for Mike Evans and 6 for Godwin – he is also in a contract year, and Overthecap dot com rates his OTC value as nearly three times his actual contract value, and that was based upon… Read more »

fredster
fredster
5 months ago

There is no strength and conditioning exercises that make you not break your ribs or get concussions etc. now if guys keep pulling hammy’s and quads, and calf’s that’s different story.