Chris Godwin is an interesting free-agent option for New York Jets
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin is one of the most accomplished players set to hit free agency in 2022. If Godwin is not franchise-tagged by the Buccaneers, he will be in high demand on the open market.
Godwin was franchise-tagged by Tampa Bay in 2021 and earned $15,983,000 on the one-year pact. A second consecutive franchise tag would pay Godwin $19,179,600 in 2022 – which is 120 percent of his previous salary.
That number is not far off from the value that Godwin is projected to earn on the open market by Spotrac. The salary-cap-tracking website estimates that Godwin will earn a five-year, $91 million contract, which is approximately $18.2 million per year.
Would signing Godwin to that contract make sense for the New York Jets if he becomes available? Let’s dive in.
Per Spotrac, a contract worth $91 million would currently be the third-largest among wide receivers, trailing only Amari Cooper ($100 million) and Michael Thomas ($96.3 million). Fellow free agent Davante Adams will likely out-earn Godwin this offseason as well.
An average annual salary of $18.2 million would currently rank sixth-highest among wide receivers.
So, Godwin’s projected contract would make him one of the top 10 highest earners in the league at his position.
Does Godwin measure up to that level?
Over the last three seasons, Godwin has caught 249 passes for 3,276 yards and 21 touchdowns in 40 games. Those numbers put him on pace for approximately 106 catches, 1,392 yards, and nine touchdowns per 17 games.
Here are some of Godwin’s numbers from 2019-21 and where they ranked among wide receivers over that span (min. 20 games played):
- Receiving yards per game: 5th (81.9)
- Receptions per game: 5th (6.2)
- Receiving touchdowns per game: 11th (0.525)
Based solely on his per-game volume production, Godwin does deserve the contract he is projected to earn.
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How does Godwin look when we analyze him with more specific metrics?
Godwin’s hands are incredibly good. The Penn State product has only dropped 11 passes in his entire career, per Pro Football Focus. That gives him a drop rate of 3.1%, which is less than half of the 2021 NFL average for wide receivers (6.6%).
Adding to Godwin’s sure-handedness is his ability to make contested catches. Godwin has caught over 63% of his contested targets in three consecutive seasons, per PFF. The average contested-catch rate for wide receivers in 2021 was 46.8%.
On the negative side, one disclaimer worth noting with Godwin is that he benefits greatly from the high-volume passing attack he plays in. Tampa Bay has thrown a league-high 1,987 passes since 2019, helping to boost the volume numbers of Godwin and his teammates. Godwin is not quite as dominant on a per-play basis as he is from a volume-totals perspective.
Here are Godwin’s ranks in yards-per-route-run out of qualified wide receivers (min. 50 targets) over the past few seasons:
- 2021: 15th of 89 (1.97)
- 2020: 25th of 84 (1.94)
- 2019: 9th of 79 (2.29)
Those are still very good numbers, but they do not paint Godwin in nearly as positive of a light as his volume stats do. Simply moving into an offense that passes the ball at a league-average frequency would lay a significant hit to Godwin’s production even if absolutely nothing else changed about his performance.
One easy way to demonstrate this is by looking at the playing time of a wide receiver from a team that passed the ball at an average rate.
In 2021, the league-average team threw 584.8 pass attempts, which is exactly 80% of the Buccaneers’ league-leading total of 731 passes. The Arizona Cardinals were the closest team to the NFL average in pass attempts with 591.
Godwin ran 560 routes in 14 games, which is 40.0 per game. Arizona’s top receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, ran 320 routes in 10 games. That’s 32.0 routes per game – which is exactly 80% of Godwin’s average.
Producing 1.97 yards per route run over 560 routes, Godwin picked up a total of 1,103 yards (78.8 per game). But if he averaged only 32.0 routes per game across his 14 appearances as Hopkins did, he would have run 448 routes. If Godwin averaged 1.97 yards per route run at that volume, he would only collect 883 receiving yards (63.1 per game).
Just keep in mind that Godwin’s overall numbers should be sliced a bit when using them to project how he might perform with a new team (unless his new team plans on passing as much as the Bucs do).
Godwin will turn 26 in February, so he is in the heart of his prime. Teams do not have to worry about an age-related decline from him.
However, injuries are a question mark with Godwin.
Godwin’s 2021 season came to an end on Dec. 19 after a season-ending torn ACL and sprained MCL. That’s a major injury. Teams need to feel good about Godwin’s recovery status before investing heavily in him.
This continues Godwin’s recent issues with durability. Over the past three seasons, Godwin has missed nine games, sitting out of multiple games in each campaign.
There is also the question mark of how Godwin’s production will translate to another team. Godwin has been playing in an extremely pass-heavy Buccaneers offense under Bruce Arians since 2019, helping to boost his numbers as we broke down above.
Godwin also has been getting to play opposite another top receiver in Mike Evans. Has Evans been an asset or a hindrance to Godwin’s production? In other words, does Evans make Godwin’s life easier by drawing attention away from him or could Godwin be even better without sharing the spotlight with another star? That is something we will not know the answer to until Godwin gets to play elsewhere.
We only got to see Godwin play without Evans in one game, so there is not much evidence as to how Godwin can operate as the focal point of an offense. Godwin did catch five passes for 121 yards in that game (a 38-17 win over Detroit in 2019), but one game is too small a sample to rely on.
Should the Jets go after Chris Godwin?
This one comes down to personal preference. There is no clear “yes” or “no” answer here. Godwin is certainly talented enough to justify a five-year, $91 million contract. However, it is no slam-dunk considering his health question marks and the uncertainty surrounding how his success will translate outside of Tampa Bay.
If the Jets love Godwin as a player enough to believe that he can produce at a top-tier level as “the guy” in their offense, think he fits tremendously in their scheme, and are confident in his health, they should absolutely make a bid for him. But if they are less than 100% sold in any of those areas, they should probably pass.
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