On March 16th, we can finally put a ribbon on the 2020 NFL season and look forward to whatever 2021 might bring. 2020 did see Tom Brady show why he MUST be in the G.O.A.T. conversation at 43 in leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the franchise’s second Super Bowl appearance and win.
But with 2020 now firmly in our rearview mirror, the Buccaneers have some tough decisions to make about 2021. With no less than 30 players ready to hit the open market, the decision makers must decide which guys will be back, and who will be “future endeavored” (that’s when you tell them you wish them well on any future endeavors).
The one thing the Bucs have on their side, is the ability to slap what is called a “franchise tag” on one player. The tag means that that player is no longer a free agent and is bound to their current team at a salary which is equal to the average salary of the Top 5 players at that specific position.
With a price like that, the tag is usually used on a player who is of high importance to the team. Once tagged, the team can still negotiate a longer term deal with the player, but if an agreement is not reached, they will play for the one season.
While the Bucs have a very large number of free agents they have to either sign or replace, there are really only two players who would be deemed worthy of the franchise tag. WR Chris Godwin, whose salary would be $16.4 mil for the season, and LB Shaq Barrett who would be owed $15.6 mil.
On the surface, it would appear to be an easy choice.
How can you possibly let go of a WR who is probably Top 10 in the league, and was instrumental in bringing the Lombardi Trophy to Tampa over a LB who, while important to the team, did not have as big an overall effect on winning as Godwin did?
Well, the answer is not that easy. If Tampa wants to do the smart thing, Barrett will be tagged and ready to go for the 2021 season, while Godwin will have to wait and see while being wined and dined by other receiver needy teams in the NFL. The reason the decision is easy is really two-fold. First, other than Godwin, the Buccaneers have quite abit of wide receiver depth. Mike Evans, the team’s best wideout is still under contract and will be back next year.
So will Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, Jaydon Mickens and even Antonio Brown (who while he is also a free agent, has already hinted that Tampa is the only place he wants to play). When you add in pass-catching tight ends in Cameron Brate, OJ Howard (who should be back and healthy) and Gronk, the depth for Brady’s weapons in there even without Godwin.
But when you look at the linebacking corps, the only impact players under contract are Jason Pierre-Paul and Devin White. Lavonte David is also a free agent, and the rest of the linebackers there are pedestrian at best. So keeping Barrett in the pewter HAS to be a priority.
The other reason is simple, supply and demand. Looking at the free agent class this season, wide receiver is one of the deepest we’ve seen in a long time.
Along with Godwin, JuJu Smith-Shuster, Allen Robinson, T.Y. Hilton, Desean Jackson, Sammy Watkins, Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Corey Davis are all set to hit the open market. So even if Godwin does land a big contract somewhere else, the Buccaneers have quite a few names to pick from, that they could probably get at a cheaper price.
While the linebacking free agents are much sparser, and therefore can ask for more money. Other than Barrett, fellow Buccaneer Lavonte David, Von Miller, Olivier Vernon, KJ Wright and Bud Dupree are the only linebackers available. At least the only ones on a similar level to Barrett. That makes retaining Barrett that much more important.
If it were just based on the skill level of the player, I would say that Godwin is a better receiver than Barrett is a linebacker, but so much more goes into it than that. Of course, the X factor is that Tom Brady make ALL receivers better too, so the loss of Godwin will be lessened a little.
So, when it comes time for Tampa to play tag, Barrett is the one who should be “it”, while Godwin may have to wait a little to “catch on” somewhere.