Chris Godwin injury is a reminder to players to get what they can, when they can

Buccaneers receiver Chris Godwin finished his four-year rookie contract the moment the confetti fired at the conclusion of Super Bowl LV. His path to free agency was blocked by the team, which exercised its right under the Collective Bargaining Agreement to apply the franchise tag.

The maneuver short-circuited the major, multi-year payday Godwin would have gotten on the open market, instead getting $15.983 million for one more year in Tampa. While that amount is nothing to sneeze at, it’s a far cry from what Godwin could have gotten as a free agent, or on a long-term offer the Bucs would have had to make to keep him. Now, as he was approaching another chance at free agency (or a second tag in the amount of $19.18 million), Godwin has suffered a torn ACL.

The timing would have been worse only if it had happened later in the regular season or in the playoffs. As it stands, he won’t be healthy when 2022 free agency begins. The Bucs would be crazy to tag him without knowing whether he’ll be the same; too many players over the years have failed to fully recover from a torn ACL to roll the dice on a $19.18 million investment in roughly two months.

It’s unfortunate, but not uncommon. Major contracts with large guarantees push the injury risk to the team, ensuring that the player will be paid even if he can’t play. A one-year deal keeps the risk on the player.

Again, Godwin got paid well on a one-year deal. He didn’t get what he should have gotten. Now, there’s no guarantee he ever will.

At best, he’ll sign a one-year deal for 2022, re-establish himself, and hit the market in 2023. Even then, the deal he gets then may not be close to the one he would have gotten in March, if he hadn’t been tagged again.