The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be on the search for a new wide receiver this offseason.
Entering the 2021 season, the Buccaneers had the strongest group of wide receivers in the league. With established receivers such as Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown in the mix, Tampa Bay had a group of former Pro Bowlers and 1,000-yard receivers from side of the field to the other end.
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However, as the Buccaneers prepare to defend their Super Bowl title in the postseason, only one receiver (Evans) is left in the mix.
“The Super Bowl champions began the year with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown as their starting wide receiver trio,” says Robinson. “Entering the first round of the playoffs, the Buccaneers are down to Evans and … not a whole lot else.
Godwin tore his ACL in late December, and he’ll be a free agent after playing on the franchise tag in 2021. Even if he comes back on a one-year deal to rebuild his value, will he be ready by Week 1? Sure, Tom Brady can make just about any pass catcher viable, but Tampa Bay needs to address the WR position.
General manager Jason Licht has drafted several mid-round receivers in recent years, including Tyler Johnson and Jaelon Darden. But neither has garnered much playing time in their brief careers, and Johnson hasn’t shown anything while filling in at times this season. If Godwin doesn’t re-sign or isn’t ready by the start of 2022, Smith-Schuster could take over in the slot and give Brady a reliable weapon.”
Is Smith-Schuster a Legit Receiver?
Smith-Schuster is a curious case because for one season, the 25-year-old wideout was better than any receiver in the game. During his lone Pro Bowl season back in 2018, Smith-Schuster caught 111 passes (sixth in the NFL) for 1,426 yards (fifth in the league) and seven touchdowns.
However, that was with Brown lining up opposite of him, attracting the opposing team’s best corner. Since Brown’s departure from Pittsburgh, Smith-Schuster hasn’t proven to be anything more than an average receiver.
Although he was limited to just five games this year, Smith-Schuster’s 58.0 grade (according to Pro Football Focus) ranked him 108th among all receivers. In 2019, his 63.1 grade ranked him 86th and in 2020, his 70.0 grade ranked him 63rd.
Bucs Suddenly Need Depth at WR
Godwin is out for the season due to a torn ACL suffered in Week 15. Although his exact return timetable is unclear, it normally takes six-to-nine months to recover from such an injury. That’s not even mentioning the fact that Godwin will be a free agent this offseason and is expected to command a market value of $18.3 million per year across five seasons, according to Spotrac.
In the case of Brown, he’s no longer a member of the Buccaneers after they waived the receiver following his sideline meltdown in Week 17 versus the New York Jets.
With unproven reserves filling out the depth chart — Jaelon Darden and Scotty Miller have a combined career total of just 57 receptions and four touchdowns — the need to sign a wide receiver (specifically a slot one) may be at the top of their wish list.
If Godwin ends up signing a massive deal elsewhere, the Bucs could look to revive Smith-Schuster’s career. Considering he’s just 25 years of age, it may be a worth risk taking.