Chris Godwin Landing Spots: Browns, Dolphins, Jaguars could be in on star WR

What are the potential landing spots for Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin if he leaves via free agency in 2022?

Chris Godwin was technically a free agent during the 2021 offseason, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kept him around via the franchise tag. It’s turned out to be a good move, as Godwin is enjoying one of the best seasons of his five-year career. As he approaches free agency again, will the Bucs be able to keep him in the fold? If not, where are some of Godwin’s possible landing spots around the NFL?

Update 12/20/21: Chris Godwin tore his ACL in Week 15 of the 2021 NFL season.

Can the Buccaneers re-sign Chris Godwin?

After the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl last season, the prevailing narrative was that general manager Jason Licht and Co. wouldn’t be able to bring back every key contributor. But Tampa Bay did go all-in — and even changed their conventional contract structures — in order to return all 22 starters, a first in the NFL’s salary cap era.

While other players like Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David, and Ndamukong Suh all received contract extensions, Godwin was assigned the franchise tender at $15.983 million. He’s responded by leading the Buccaneers in both receptions (92) and yards (1,054) through 13 games. Additionally, he’s been healthy for the entirety of the season thus far, something he’d never accomplished as a full-time starter.

Tampa Bay should rank near the middle of the pack in 2022 with roughly $33 million in cap space. But they also have a laundry list of pending free agents. In addition to Godwin, fellow WR Antonio Brown, OL Ryan Jensen and Alex Cappa, TE Rob Gronkowski, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, CB Carlton Davis, S Jordan Whitehead, RB Leonard Fournette, and others are scheduled to hit the open market next spring.

Plus, the Buccaneers have seemingly been preparing for a potential Godwin departure by selecting wideouts in each of their past two draft classes. Tyler Johnson was a fifth-round pick in 2020 — he’s garnered a bit of playing time this year with Brown sidelined. Tampa Bay also added North Texas alum Jaelon Darden in the fourth round of the 2021 draft. Neither Johnson nor Darden is near Godwin’s level at present, but the Bucs should have options if Godwin departs.

Chris Godwin landing spots

If the Buccaneers don’t bring Godwin back, where else could he go? Here are a few teams that could potentially express interest.

Godwin would become the Cleveland Browns’ No. 1 WR

The Browns can use all the help they can get at wide receiver. Donovan Peoples-Jones is Cleveland’s leading WR with 430 yards. That is the second-lowest total for a team’s leading pass catcher in the NFL, second to only the Giants (Kenny Golladay, 424). Odell Beckham Jr. is already gone, and Jarvis Landry is likely a cap casualty in 2022.

Cleveland’s offense obviously centers around its run game. They’re one of only four teams to post positive expected points added (EPA) per play this season, ranking fourth behind the Colts, Buccaneers, and Eagles. But passing is much more efficient than running in today’s NFL, and the Browns desperately need talent at WR. Capable of playing in the slot or out wide, Godwin could become a new tool for Baker Mayfield.

Godwin and Jaylen Waddle could vault Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa into a new tier

The Dolphins are in the midst of a five-game win streak that has given them a (small) chance at a postseason berth. Second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has improved this season, but Miami still ranks just 25th in points scored. The club’s passing offense is only 22nd in DVOA (Football Outsiders’ efficiency metric) and 27th in net yards per play.

Jaylen Waddle has been excellent in his first NFL campaign, but the Dolphins need to utilize his speed more in 2022. Thus far, his average depth of target is just 7.3 yards, the same as plodding Colts tight end Jack Doyle. Godwin would give Miami a weapon capable of executing crossers and other short-to-intermediate routes, opening up space for Waddle down the field.

With DeVante Parker no lock to return next season, the Dolphins — who are projected to lead the NFL in 2022 cap space — could open up their wallets for Godwin.

The Jacksonville Jaguars need to help Trevor Lawrence

It’s unclear what direction the Jaguars will lean after firing head coach Urban Meyer last week. But as PFN’s Adam Beasley wrote in analyzing potential Meyer replacements, the No. 1 goal of Jacksonville’s next coach will be developing Trevor Lawrence into an elite quarterback. That will likely entail hiring an offensive head coach, and it will also include adding more talent for the 2021 No. 1 overall pick.

Marvin Jones looks like anything but the veteran security blanket he was supposed to be. Laviska Shenault has not been the do-it-all receiver that many expected. It’s probably unfair to blame either pass catcher for their performance, as the Jaguars’ offensive coaching staff leaves a lot to be desired. But Jacksonville could certainly use an infusion of skill for Lawrence, and Godwin would be an enticing option.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could sign Godwin to replace JuJu Smith-Schuster

Diontae Johnson has evolved into one of the best receivers in the NFL. Chase Claypool (his on-field antics notwithstanding) is also uber-talented. But the Steelers will likely need a new slot WR next season. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s one-year, $8 million contract will be up. After he missed most of the season with a shoulder injury, it’s hard to see him back in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers have been great at drafting and developing their own receiver talent — there’s no debate about that. But the club could be fielding a rookie signal-caller in 2022 following Ben Roethlisberger’s likely retirement. It would behoove Pittsburgh to further build up its receiving corps to ensure that a first-year quarterback has every chance at success.

With a few cuts, the Steelers could have more than $50 million in cap space next season. It won’t be a question of whether Pittsburgh can afford Godwin — it will be a question of motivation.

Could Washington revisit the free-agent WR market?

Washington dipped into the free-agent receiver market last offseason, inking Curtis Samuel to a three-year, $34.5 million deal. That contract hasn’t worked out thus far. Samuel has only been healthy enough to appear in five games, posting a 6-27-0 line. Furthermore, he’s played just 84 offensive snaps all year.

Would that result be enough for WFT to swear off another free agent? Maybe. But they’ll have the cap space ($62 million) to make another addition if they so choose. Hopefully, Washington will be able to find a new quarterback either through free agency, trade, or the draft. Handing that signal-caller a tandem of Godwin and Terry McLaurin — and treating Samuel as a pure luxury — would be a superb way to climb back into contention in the NFC East.

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