From uncertainty to Brady’s return, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin details ‘whirlwind’ that led to his new deal

TAMPA, Florida — While he may have his hands on a brand new three-year deal worth $60 million ($40 million guaranteed), Tampa Bay Buccaneers broad receiver Chris Godwin described the past few weeks as a “whirlwind” of emotions.

Godwin was dealing with uncertainty about his NFL future — trying to heal a torn ACL and MCL, which had been surgically repaired — while on the cusp of becoming 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. It was a lot of uncertainty at different points and sometimes it makes you wonder why things happen,” Godwin said Monday, adding that he felt he could have done something to change the Bucs. fate, as Brady was running out of receivers by the postseason. “But you can’t control what happens to you. You only have control over your personal reaction to it and how you choose to handle it.”

Brady was gone for 40 days and, of course, much of Godwin’s decision depended on who would throw the ball to him next. Things started to clear up when the Bucs put the franchise label on him on March 8, meaning he’d be back in Tampa anyway. It served as a placeholder until a long-term deal was finalized, which Godwin’s agent, Tory Dandy, and the Bucs had been working on but not yet finalizing.

But things really started to crystallize when, on March 13, Godwin received a text from Brady in a group chat with Mike Evans, a wide receiver. In it, Brady said, “Yo…just let you guys know…I’ll be back and I’m looking forward to another year.”

Godwin was in disbelief.

“Mike and I were so worked up, like, ‘Yo, what are you talking about? Did you just retire?!” said Godwin. “It’s hard to leave the game when you’re as committed as Tom.”

Brady decided to bounce back 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 by lowering his 2022 salary cap from $19 million to $5 million due to invalid years on the deal. Now, the Bucs have locked up both of their Pro Bowl receivers until 2024 and Brady for at least another year.

It coincided with the return of Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen and cornerback Carlton Davis, as well as the signing of Brady’s former New England Patriots teammate most recently with the New York Giants, Logan Ryan, and the exchange for Patriots guard Shaq. Mason, who was with Brady for five seasons.

“This past week has been a whirlwind for a lot of people,” Godwin said. “I think it just restores confidence in the fans of the Bucs. We’re back, man, and we’re not laying down for anyone. We’re coming back to try and get to the top of the mountain, and you’ve got great players and took great people to do that, and of course Tom’s return was a huge stretch.”

General manager Jason Licht experienced some of those emotions but maintained a sense of peace despite not having many options outside of Brady. Kyle Trask, who selected the Bucs in the second round of last year’s NFL draft but was relegated last year primarily for scouting team duties, was next in line. He said at the last minute with the NFL combination that they would “leave a light on” for Brady, just in case.

“In this business you have to be ready to expect the unexpected, but you also have to have plans no matter what,” Licht said Monday. “I couldn’t help it at the time. We were very confident that he would change his mind and come back, but we had to have plans anyway.

“When he decided he was going to retire and we had several conversations – myself and Bruce were a big part of that – I had a feeling it could happen, but I wasn’t sure until later… had with him and Bruce and knew he would make a statement. It was a great 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 everyone, every fan here and every person on the staff here. We’re all excited. Why wouldn’t you be?”

As for Godwin, the new deal represents the last tick on a list of dreams he told his then-lover and now wife, Mariah, when they were 13: to get drafted into the NFL, win a Super Bowl, and earn a second contract.

“For me to be a kid and see these things a little bit and dream these things a little bit and let them all come to fruition is pretty surreal,” Godwin said. “I’m still processing [it], but it’s crazy — to have a vision, to put the time into it, to put in the work, to make things go the right way — I’ve met some incredible people along the way who helped me helped and poured into me. For me to be here — it’s a testament to what hard work can do for you, what a good person is to you. Hopefully I can be someone that someone like myself looked up to when I was a kid — hopefully 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.”

“That’s a fact, man,” Godwin said. “It’s a testament to hard work, dedication, being a good person – all that, those things are important. Those are the things I’m most proud of.”

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