In Week 15 of the 2021 season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin, the most targeted player in Tampa Bay’s pass-happy offense, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament. As is often the case, the timetable for returning to full speed from such an injury is nine to 12 months, especially for wide receivers putting a lot of pressure on healthy ligaments when making separation-creating cuts.
In trying to determine the prognosis for any injured player recovering in the offseason, there are two primary factors that are taken into consideration – what is the team saying about the extent of the injury, and did the organization come up with a backup plan.
In the case of the Buccaneers, it was both.
The team sent out a positive sign this spring when, despite the injury, the Buccaneers signed Godwin to a three-year contract extension worth $60 million with $40 million in guarantees. In the salary cap era, teams don’t make that kind of financial commitment without having a high level of confidence that the injured player will return to pre-injury form.
However, Tampa Bay also signed Russell Gage, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, to a three-year contract in free agency. Ideally, Gage would be the No. 3 receiver in the offense, but the deal is worth $30 million – a heavy tax to pay for a No. 3 receiver. It would appear that the Bucs wanted to make sure that Tom Brady has the weapons he needs as he returns for another run at a Super Bowl, and TB12 himself recruited Gage, so it’s hard to say if there’s more to it than that….
The arrival of Gage gives Tampa Bay options when it comes to how it approaches the timetable for Godwin’s return. Earlier this month, Bucs officials said that Godwin is progressing well with his timetable to return, which would be little to no contact in training camp and the preseason and determining in Week 1 if he is healed enough to be a full-time player. Gage gives the team insurance either way.
Fantasy football outlook
He hasn’t been seen on the field in real-world football situations, leaving some to speculate as to whether Godwin will be able to be on the field Week 1. Fantasy auctions and drafts will come and go before anyone has a true handle on the level of readiness Godwin has, which could play into the hands of owners who are willing to take some risks.
With the uncertainty, Godwin could be devalued on draft day. At best, he will be a low-end WR2 in a conventional league. That said, all accounts coming out of Tampa Bay say his rehab is going as hoped and his target date for a full return is Week 1. In this case, don’t let his injury prevent you from making a move on him because, as a low-end WR2, he’s a value pick if he’s good to go. Just prepare for a sluggish start to his sixth pro season, and draft accordingly because of his long-term track record of durability issues.