TAMPA, Fla. — Although he may have a brand new three-year contract worth $60 million ($40 million guaranteed), Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin described the last few weeks like a “whirlwind” of emotions.
Godwin was dealing with the uncertainty of his NFL future — trying to heal a torn ACL and MCL, which had been surgically repaired — as he was set to become an unrestricted free agent. And, after the Bucs lost the NFC Divisional Playoff game to eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, quarterback Tom Brady announced he was retiring.
“It was definitely a whirlwind of emotions. There was a lot of uncertainty at different times and sometimes it leaves you wondering why things are happening,” Godwin said on Monday, adding that he felt like he could have done anything to change the Bucs. ‘ fate, as Brady found himself with almost no receivers in the playoffs. “But you can’t control what happens to you. You can just control your personal reaction and how you choose to go about it.”
Brady was gone for 40 days and naturally a big part of Godwin’s decision depended on who threw the ball to him next. Things started to clear up when the Bucs placed him on the franchise tag on March 8, meaning he would be back in Tampa no matter what. He served as a placeholder until a long-term deal was finalized, which Godwin’s agent Tory Dandy and the Bucs were working on but not yet completed.
But things really started to crystallize when Godwin received a March 13 text from Brady during a group chat with receiver Mike Evans. In it, Brady said, “Yo…I’m just letting y’all know…I’m coming back and I’m excited for another year.'”
Godwin was in disbelief.
“Me and Mike were so pumped up, like, ‘Yo, what are you talking about? You just retired?!” said Godwin. “It’s hard to walk away from the game when you’re as dedicated as Tom.”
Brady made his decision to come back to the public about 20 minutes later in posts on Twitter and Instagram.
Godwin then signed his new contract on March 16, a move that saved the Bucs $14 million in salary cap space by lowering his 2022 salary cap from $19 million to $5 million thanks to void years on the deal. Now the Bucs have their two Pro Bowl wide receivers locked out until 2024 and Brady for at least a year.
This coincided with the return of Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen and cornerback Carlton Davis, as well as the signing of former New England Patriots teammate Brady who was most recently with the New York Giants. Logan Ryan, and trade Patriots guard Shaq Mason, who was with Brady for five seasons.
“Last week was a whirlwind for a lot of people,” Godwin said. “I think it just restores confidence in the Bucs fan base. ‘We’re back, man, and we’re not laying down for anybody. We’re coming back to try and get to the top of the mountain, and you you need great players and great people to do that, and obviously Tom’s return was a huge piece.”
General manager Jason Licht lived through some of those emotions but maintained a sense of peace, despite not having many options outside of Brady. Kyle Trask, who the Bucs selected in the second round of the NFL Draft last year but was mostly relegated to scout team duties last year, was next. He told the NFL Combine at the last minute that they would “leave a light on” for Brady, just in case.
“In this business, you have to be prepared to expect the unexpected, but you also have to have plans both ways,” Licht said Monday. “There was nothing I could do about it at the time. We had a lot of faith that he might change his mind and come back, but we had to have plans anyway.
“Now when he decided he was going to retire and we had several conversations – myself and Bruce were a big part of that – there was a feeling that it could happen but I didn’t have specifics. until later… I had spoken to him and Bruce and knew he was going to release a statement. It was a beautiful day.
How did Licht feel when he got that phone call?
“A sense of relief. We were all excited,” Licht said. “I probably think the same as anyone, any fan here and any staff here. We’re all excited. Why wouldn’t you be?”
As for Godwin, the new deal represents the final tick on a list of dreams he told his then sweetheart and now wife, Mariah, when they were 13: getting drafted into the NFL, winning a Super Bowl and win a second contract.
“For me to be a kid and see these things and dream about these things and have them come to fruition is pretty surreal,” Godwin said. “I’m still dealing [it], but it’s crazy – to have a vision, to put time into it, to work, to make things happen the right way – I’ve met some amazing people along the way who have helped me and poured into me. For me to be here – it’s a testament to what hard work can do for you, what being a good person does for you. I hope I can be someone that someone like me, when I was a kid, looked up to – I hope I can be that someone for someone else.”
Mariah told Godwin in a heartfelt Instagram post, “If your younger self could see you, he’d be impressed. You did.”
“It’s a fact, man,” Godwin said. “It’s a testament to hard work, dedication, being a good person – all of those things matter. Those are the things I’m most proud of.”