As we continue to move on with our free agent previews for the 2019 offseason, we have approached a position group that seems to have plenty of depth on the surface, but if you look close enough, you’ll see that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have to bring in some help from the outside.
The Bucs have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as their sure-fire pass-catchers for 2019. Those two are a great start, but depending on Bruce Arians’ evaluations of Justin Watson, Adam Humphries, and DeSean Jackson - the Bucs could be in pretty desperate need of some receivers.
Jackson’s $10 million cap hit, lack of production, and bad attitude are known all too well and the word on the street is that Humphries - an unrestricted free agent in 2019 - may be able to find himself on the good side of a contract that’s worth close to what Jackson would make this year.
If that’s the case, then it’d be almost impossible for Tampa Bay to bring back Hump.
So, the Bucs need a backup plan, therefore, here we are. Just like the offensive line, these receivers that we are about to look at don’t have to be starters. They are simply options that could fill the potential void at the slot position and the potential lack of a vertical threat.
Don’t rule out the possibility of an in-house candidate making their case for one of those roles, but for this article’s purpose, we will only look at free agents.
The highest-graded receiver in the league was Deandre Hopkins. He finished with a 92.0 overall grade that included a 92.2 receiving grade and a 63.8 run blocking grade. The 92.2 mark was the highest amongst all receivers in 2018.
With all of this now in front of us, let’s find out who the Bucs can bring in at receiver for the 2019 campaign.
1. Wide Receiver, Adam Humphries, Tampa Bay
PFF Grade: 75.2 Overall/74.0 Receiving/67.3 Run Blocking/781 total snaps
This one is pretty obvious.
Hump finished with career-high marks all across the board outside of yards per reception. There is no reason to think that he wouldn’t find a role in Bruce Arians’ offense.
But as our own Alex Salvarezza and I discussed on our most recent episode of Overtime, Humphries may be offered/demand as much as $10 million during free agency.
There is no way Tampa Bay could afford that salary. They’d break even if they cut Jackson and paid Humphries $10 million, but the thought here is to expand the cap, not even it out. The Bucs could use that $10 million elsewhere, because there are plenty of holes on the current roster.
The former undrafted free agent finished with 76 catches for 816 yards and five touchdowns in 2018. His a tremendous route runner, insanely tough, and has only gotten better as the years have passed.
Split screen of Bucs Adam Humphries catches after taking monster hits in week 14 vs. Saints and week 16 vs. Cowboys. Nearly identical. pic.twitter.com/o1IhHimDRI— Justin Granit WTSP (@JustinWTSP) December 23, 2018
The sweet spot here is right around $6-$7 million per year. That’s really all that Tampa Bay can afford, but if Humphries is wanted elsewhere - and there have been plenty of rumblings of interest - then there’s no reason to deny the thought that he could reach $10 million in salary.
Let’s hope he gives the Bucs a hometown discount.
Honorable Mentions: Golden Tate, Cole Beasley
2. Wide Receiver, Tyrell Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
PFF Grade: 65.9 Overall/66.4 Receiving/58.9 Run Blocking/857 Total Snaps
I’ll admit on this one that I’m a bit biased. This is my dude right here.
Williams is a 6-foot-4 205-pound speedster that can run a 4.33 40-yard dash. His size and speed are a rare combination and he is a pretty decent run blocker as well.
Tyrell Williams (@TyrellWilliams_ )had himself a day (3 catches 113 yards 2 TDs). One of the league's best "take the top off a defense" guys and also a monster in run blocking.— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) October 15, 2018
One of the more valuable players in the league that doesn't get a lot of accolades. pic.twitter.com/jA2iya7qAB
Just like Hump, Williams went undrafted - except he hails from Western Oregon instead of Clemson - and now finds himself in prime position to make some pretty decent money in free agency.
He finished last year with almost the same stat line as Jackson. He wound up hauling in 41 receptions for 653 yards and five touchdowns in 2018, good for 15.9 yards per reception.
This cat would be a true difference-maker if the Bucs were to sign him. It’d be like having Vincent Jackson - the other Jackson - lined up opposite of Mike Evans all over again, except this time you have a player who is “on the up” instead of in decline.
And Williams is much faster than Jackson. Much, much faster.
The Bucs also have the salary cap working in their favor. Not necessarily their cap in particular, but the Chargers’ cap.
L.A. has around $21.9 million in cap, but guess who is due a new deal after this season?
You know he is going to want to get paid and he is the key to that offense outside of Philip Rivers. It would stun the NFL if the Chargers let him walk.
So, that likely means that the Chargers will have to say goodbye to someone(s) and that someone in particular could be Williams.
If that ends up being the case, keep your fingers crossed that Tampa Bay ends up becoming Williams’ new home.
Honorable Mentions: Phillip Dorsett, Josh Gordon
3. Wide Receiver, John Brown, Baltimore Ravens
PFF Grade: 64.7 Overall/65.1 Receiving/54.4 Run Blocking/797 Total Snaps
Out of all three options, Brown is the most likely candidate to land in Tampa Bay.
He’s projected to earn around $6 million and not only does he have familiarity with Arians and his system/scheme, but it’s safe to say that Arians was able to get the best out of Brown. He finished with a 1,000 yard season in 2015 and caught 113 receptions in his first two seasons under Arians.
But Brown was diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia in 2016 and that apparently gave him some issues with his hamstring. He wasn’t able to build off of his promising sophomore campaign and even had more issues with his hamstring that kept him out of six games in 2017.
All of that was put aside in 2018, however, as Brown played in all 16 games and finished the season with 42 catches for 715 yards and five touchdowns. At 5-foot-11 178-pounds, he is basically the same size as Jackson and can run a 4.34.
SMOKE.— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) October 1, 2018
Joe Flacco hits John Brown for a 71-yard gain. pic.twitter.com/cGIma2DICa
Brown is essentially Jackson without the attitude. Their measurables are nearly identical and they both possess elite speed.
Signing Brown makes the most sense out of all of the other options and when you consider how Arians is bringing a lot of his former staff together, you have to ask yourself, ‘why wouldn’t he bring backs some former players, too’.
Honorable Mention: Jermaine Kearse
Will the Bucs be able to re-sign Adam Humphries?
This poll is closed
Yes, they’ll do it for any price
Only if they can afford him
No, they’ll let him walk no matter what