If you’re a smart franchise, you’re always looking ahead. 2021 free agency may be over (for the most part) for the Bucs and the rest of the NFL, but that doesn’t mean you pack up and go home.
It means it’s time for a whole new challenge, which is the 2022 salary cap and -potential- free agent class.
The Bucs, as it stands, will have 34 free agents next year, which is obviously more than the 23 they had this year. And then another layer is added when you consider 13 of those 34 free agents are either starters (11 of the 13) or major contributors to the team.
The good news is that they should have a lot more room to work with salary cap-wise; close to $26 million more, actually. The bad news is that a lot of said room is taken up by the contracts handed out earlier this year. Per overthecap.com, the Bucs already have $186.8 million of the available $208.2 million assigned to the 2022 roster.
One way to increase cap space is to extend the contract(s) of current players. So, who will get a new deal? Spotrac.com recently released its NFL contract extension projections and Chris Godwin and Jason Pierre-Paul were the two Bucs mentioned in the column.
Chris Godwin is projected to earn Kenny Golladay-like money
Michael Ginnitti, the creator/founder of Spotrac had this to say about Godwin:
Was 2019 an anomaly? 3 out of Godwin’s 4 seasons were above average, but not elite – statistically speaking. It’s also difficult to see him garnering top WR money in a TB arsenal where he’ll remain a WR2 by committee in Tom Brady’s offense. With that said, his best comp is Kenny Golladay’s new 4 year, $72M deal with the Giants.
Questioning Godwin’s impactful 2019 season -while it seems a bit premature- is logical. But full context is important when dissecting Godwin’s career.
He was the No. 4 receiver behind Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Adam Humphries in 2017 and 2018. You can even argue that he was the No. 5 target in the offense behind Cameron Brate and/or O.J. Howard at times. Either way, his numbers improved substantially in 2018.
Then 2019 happened. Both Jackson and Humphries were out of the picture, so Godwin became the clear-cut No. 2 option. As we all know, Godwin took off. He had one of the best seasons in Bucs history. It would’ve been even better if he didn’t miss the last two games with a hamstring injury.
2020 was supposed to be more of the same, but the former Nittany Lion literally fought injuries all year long. It started with a concussion during the season opener against New Orleans, continued with a pulled hamstring, and trickled down to a broken finger that required surgery against the Raiders. In all, Godwin missed four games in 2020.
But Godwin still finished 2020 with a stat line that either closely rivaled or exceeded his production in 2017 or 2018. Even with all the injury issues. It’s clear the Godwin has a floor of around 50-60 catches, 800-900 receiving yards, and 5-7 touchdowns. He’s going to put up elite numbers as long as he’s healthy.
And he does more than just catch the ball. He’s an elite blocker in the run game and a great teammate. That always adds a few extra dollars to the deal.
Ginnitti is correct about Godwin and the No. 2 role. Evans is definitely the main man, so is it a good idea to pay Godwin No. 1 receiver money when he is considered the No. 2 option?
Yes. Because Godwin isn’t your typical No. 2 and this offense doesn’t have a straight-up hierarchy of target shares because that’s not how Tom Brady rolls. Also, what if I told you Godwin averaged more targets per game (7) than Evans (6.8) in 2020?
Getting a long-term deal done would help the Bucs’ cap space this year and would also limit the hit in 2022 if it’s played correctly. Plus, the Bucs get to lock up one of their young talents for the foreseeable future.
Jason Pierre-Paul is on track to finish his career with the Bucs
Like the Godwin assessment, Ginnitti’s assessment of JPP is pretty solid.
JPP isn’t going to be the hell-raiser he once was, but he’s been consistently productive at the level he’s molded into late in his career. A deal slightly less than the one he’s set to finish out makes sense to stick with TB (2 yrs, $22M).
The 12-year veteran led the Bucs with 9.5 sacks and was the only player to make the Pro Bowl in 2020. He even recorded two interceptions.
This was done on a bad knee, one which JPP claims was around 70% during the regular season. If this is true, then JPP could be in line for even more than Ginnitti’s projected $11 million per year.
That’s because one has to assume his numbers will go up in 2021. The Bucs defense should be one of the top units in the league and the pass rush is elite. 11 of 12 starters will enter their third year in this defense, so there is not only familiarity with the playbook and scheme, but also with the players. They know what to expect of each other and they know where each other will be during a given play. This type of cohesion is not often seen in the NFL and it should benefit the Bucs in a big way.
The clock is definitely ticking on JPP’s career, but he’s still producing, so it’s more like the clock is a sundial opposed to a stopwatch. Nevertheless, he is in the final year of the two-year deal he signed in 2020. Like Godwin, extending JPP now would be a good way to clear up some space for this year and next.
Who do you hope to see stick around with the Bucs in 2022? Let us know in the comment section below!