Despite being known more for its defensive success, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had plenty of great wide receivers come through the franchise. Nobody can hold a candle to what MIke Evans has done during his career, but there have been plenty of guys like Keyshawn Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Joey Galloway, and DeSean Jackson have cycled through to varying degrees of success.
With all that is being made about the future of Mike Evans and the potential need to replace him, one thing the Bucs might have down the road is secondary stability below that superstar line.
Rather than ride a singular star, Jason Licht drafted Penn State’s Chris Godwin in 2017. It was a move that would serve as the start of the dynamic duo of Evans and Godwin, a duo that has been together for six years making the Bucs offense better than it had any business being for most of that time.
Since debuting for Tampa Bay, Godwin has caught 523 receptions for 6,639 receiving yards and 34 touchdowns, while posting three 1,000+ yard seasons and earning AP All-Pro Second Team and Pro Bowl nods in 2019. Not to be outdone, Evans has recorded 759 receptions for 11,658 receiving yards, 94 touchdowns, and four Pro Bowl appearances. In addition, Evans became the second player all time to record 1,000+ receiving yards in his first ten seasons, only trailing all-time great WR Jerry Rice's mark of 11.
Tom Brady did wonders for the duo, but Baker Mayfield has proven that there’s more than enough talent to keep building around. Entering Sunday's regular-season finale versus Carolina, Mayfield has completed 344-544 (64.4%) pass attempts for 3,907 passing yards, 28 passing touchdowns, ten interceptions, and a 95.9 passer rating, with passing yards and touchdowns representing career-highs for the sixth-year veteran.
Can Trey Palmer step up as a legit WR3 for Buccaneers?
One thing that the Bucs seem ready to add is a legit WR3 to evolve the duo into a trio — assuming Evans stays. That’s where rookie Trey Palmer enters the equation.
Even with a modest stat line, Palmer has shown promising flashes as a complementary receiving threat to Evans and Godwin this season. Palmer, the No. 191 pick in the sixth round of the 2023 draft, has notched 37 receptions for 375 receiving yards and three touchdowns (9th among rookies).
Following a slow start to the 2023 season, Palmer has enjoyed a late-season surge, catching 3 or more passes in six of his last ten games for 281 receiving yards and one touchdown. In Tampa Bay's Wee 17 loss to New Orleans, Palmer had a career-best performance, catching all four of his targets for 84 receiving yards and a 22-yard strike from Mayfield, all career-highs.
As stated by Stat Muse, Palmer currently ranks 17th among all rookies in receiving yards, and is just seven yards ahead of New York's Jalin Hyatt. With this said, Palmer is in one of the NFL's most crowded receiver rooms, as Evans and Godwin have been targeted 121 and 116 times of Mayfield's and Kyle Trask's 497 pass attempts, which is equivalent to target shares of 24.3% and 23.3% respectively. Essentially, Evans and Godwin combine for about half of the team’s targets and 56% of the team’s receiving yardage.
Therefore, it shouldn't come as a shock that Palmer only has a target share of 12.5% and is responsible of 0.09% of the team's receving yardage.
When Palmer has been given greater shares of opportunity this season, the former Nebraska Cornhusker hasn't disappointed, and is an encouraging sign for Tampa Bay for the rest of this season and for future campaigns.