The New England Patriots reportedly will have one less wide receiver option available when NFL free agency begins next week.
Godwin, a third-round pick in 2017, is coming off a 2020 season in which he caught 65 passes for 840 yards with seven touchdowns in 12 games. He earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2019, a season in which he caught 86 passes for 1,333 yards with nine TDs over 14 games.
Tom Brady had no shortage of weapons with which to work this past season while guiding the Bucs to a Super Bowl title, and Godwin was instrumental in Tampa Bay’s playoff success. The 25-year-old led the team with 232 receiving yards and a touchdown in the postseason.
The Patriots desperately need playmakers one year removed from Brady’s departure, as New England’s offense struggled in 2020 with Cam Newton under center. Godwin seemed like a logical potential target given his performance, his talent, his youth and even his success working alongside Brady, who spent 20 seasons in New England before signing with Tampa Bay in free agency last offseason.
The Bucs tagging Godwin weakens an otherwise strong class of free agent wide receivers. Other enticing options remain, however, and Tampa Bay’s decision seemingly increases the likelihood that Bucs linebackers Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David hit free agency.
It’s unclear whether the Patriots will consider pursuing Barrett or David — or if they had interest in Godwin, for that matter — but New England needs help on defense, as well, with linebacker being a position of need.
Franchise tagging Godwin will cost the Bucs about $16.5 million. Barrett earned $15.8 million playing under the franchise tag in 2020, per ESPN.com, and tagging him again in 2021 would have cost Tampa Bay $18.96 million.
The Bucs are facing somewhat of a financial crunch after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The Patriots, meanwhile, are flush with salary cap space while looking to bounce back from a 7-9 campaign, their first losing season since 2000.