When the Bucs enter the 2022 offseason, they may have a major void to fill in their wide receiver corps if Chris Godwin leaves via free agency. Godwin, 25, led Tampa Bay in targets (172), receptions (98) and receiving yards (1,103). He signed a one-year contract for $16 million and will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
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If Godwin leaves, the Buccaneers should look at the Atlanta Falcons’ Calvin Ridley as a potential replacement, Bruton wrote in her January 19 post.
In Bruton’s proposed trade scenario, the Buccaneers would give up second- and third-round draft picks in the 2022 NFL draft to acquire Ridley, 27.
“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are desperate for bodies in their receivers room, with Antonio Brown’s very public exit and Chris Godwin hitting free agency,” Bruton wrote. “If the Buccaneers allow Godwin to walk away, bringing in a player of Ridley’s stature, combined with [quarterback] Tom Brady, would be an absolute feat.
“Brady, like [Green Bay quarterback Aaron] Rodgers, can elevate even average receivers to elite status. But he needs some help, too. When he didn’t have Godwin or Mike Evans available against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16, he went 18-of-30 for 232 yards and one touchdown.”
Why Falcons Could Trade Ridley to Bucs
In her piece, Bruton acknowledged that trades between division rivals are unusual, but she pointed out that for as long as Brady is playing, it’s the Buccaneers’ division. With the Falcons in rebuilding mode, stocking up on draft capital while dealing a potentially unhappy star benefits all parties.
“Would the Falcons even entertain this trade offer from a division rival? Atlanta is self-aware enough to understand Tampa Bay is probably the favorite to win the division every year Brady lines up under center,” Bruton wrote. “But with some draft capital, the Falcons could push for a wild card spot in 2022. They might ask the Bucs to sweeten the pot, however, given how low Tampa Bay’s picks in this year’s draft will fall.”
Ridley May Look for ‘Fresh Start’
Ridley tweeted on October 31 that he was “stepping away” from football to focus on his “mental wellbeing.” The Falcons placed him on the non-football injury list five days later, according to ESPN’s Michael Rothstein. That means Ridley was limited to five appearances, in which he caught 31 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns. At that pace, he would have caught 105 passes over 17 games, good for eighth in the NFL.
In Ridley’s 2020 breakthrough season, he caught 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns on 143 targets and was named to the All-Pro second team.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported on January 15 that the Falcons and Ridley have had little communication but that the team is “holding out hope.” Garafolo said Ridley could be looking for a “fresh start” and predicted that he will play for another team in 2022.