It was a good year to be a Tampa Bay wideout, as the team fielded four guys who finished within the Top 35 at the position in terms of receiving yards. Evans led the way with a career-high 1,524 yards, and heads into his age 26 season still having yet finish a season with less than 1,000 yards. In addition to finishing third in NFL receiving, Evans put together a few other eye-opening statistics, including a whopping 2,121 air yards (second only to Julio Jones), and a 11.04 yards per target average (second only to Tyler Lockett). Regarded by some as a poster-child for inefficiency, this was a good year for Evans to quiet the critics. Behind Evans was essentially a three-person rotation of Godwin, Humphries and Jackson. A third-round draft pick in 2017, many pegged Godwin as a 2018 breakout, though it only partially materialized as the Buccaneers spread the ball around to all of their ancillary wideouts. Even so, Godwin frequently flashed each week with his ability to win contested catches.
In regards to Humphries, the former undrafted free agent has now seen his receptions and receiving yards rise every year since entering the NFL in 2015, while the five touchdown receptions this past season were more than he had put up over his first three combined. Jackson started off 2018 scorching, as he averaged 106 receiving yards per game and scored three times over the first four weeks of the season. Despite never logging more than 80 receiving yards in any contest following Tampa Bay’s Week 5 bye, Jackson was on pace to make the Buccaneers the third team with whom he logged a 1,000-yard receiving campaign if thumb and Achilles injuries hadn’t shelved him for four games. Even at 32 years old, Jackson showed he’s still got it as a lid-lifter given his 18.8 yards per reception led all NFL wideouts among those who caught at least 40 balls. While Evans is the undoubted king of the castle moving forward, there’s a potential path to Godwin becoming the Robin to Evans’ Batman. Humphries is a free agent this March and is in for some substantial contract after his recent stellar play, and, given Tampa Bay’s pass-catcher depth, there’s little reason for the team to overpay. Jackson still has one year left on a $33.5 million contract signed in 2017, though the outspoken wideout already dropped hints about being disgruntled earlier this year after reportedly requesting a trade midseason (a sentiment likely fueled by Jackson’s gradual loss of playing time at the expense of the Buccaneers’ younger guys). Tampa Bay can save $10 million in 2019 cap space by cutting or trading Jackson, though newly hired head coach Bruce Arians is reportedly in favor of Jackson staying. While it’s unlikely the Tampa Bay receiving corps will be able to duplicate 2018’s smashing overall success, Arians’ presence should at least ensure this group remains a force in 2019, whether Humphries and/or Jackson are part of it or not.
Despite being limited to just 10 games, Howard still managed to finish as the overall TE14, while his 12.1 points per reception league fantasy points per game was good enough for sixth-best at the position. Additionally, Howard continued to be a big play beast, as his 16.6 yards per reception (the second year in a row hitting that mark) was tops among tight ends who caught at least 30 balls. With the Buccaneers likely paring down their wideout corps for 2019, Howard should have an even bigger pass game role going foward, and will be a strong mid-tier TE1 after the marquee names fly off summer draft boards. Just be wary that Howard has been a bit injury prone his first two seasons in the league, as he’s seen each of them cut short due to ankle issues. Inexplicably handed a six-year/$41 million free agent contract last March, Brate ran as Howard’s clear cut backup while the latter was healthy. With Howard out of the picture between Weeks 12 and 17, Brate underwhelmed with 13-130 receiving across those five contests, but did manage to score three times. After the season ended, it was revealed Brate played through most of the campaign with a torn labrum in his hip, which would need surgery to repair. Tampa Bay ended up restructuring Brate’s behemoth of a contract in a manner that eliminated any dead money if he were cut or traded, and the team would save $7 million in 2019 salary cap room if one of those scenarios unfolds. Brate playing elsewhere next season would only enhance Howard’s mouth-watering upside even further.