Sports

The Buccaneers finally came to their senses with Mike Evans

Mike Evans is a Hall of Fame talent. His 1,255 receiving yards last season makes him the only player in NFL history to record 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first 10 NFL seasons. Regardless of whether the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is Tom Brady, Jameis Winston, Baker Mayfield, Ryan Fitzgerald, Josh McCown, or Mike Glennon, Evans puts up numbers.

His consistent production is why the Bucs not offering him a contract extension prior to the start of the 2023 season was puzzling. He turned 30 prior to Week 1, but had shown no signs of slowing down the last time that he took the field. With the team’s future in flux after going all in for a few years of Brady, the logical play would be to lock up the best offensive playmaker on the roster.

After 1,000-yard season No. 10, and a playoff victory, the Buccaneers came to their senses and re-signed Evans. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the two sides agreed on a two-year, $52 million deal, $35 million of which is guaranteed. ESPN’s Bucs reporter Jenna Laine wrote in September that Evans was more concerned with the guaranteed money than the number of years. He’s a man who is clearly familiar with the way that the NFL does business.

He put up quite the contract year as Tampa took advantage of a weak NFC South and the floundering Philadelphia Eagles in a playoff victory. The season ended with a loss to the Detroit Lions in the divisional round, yet, the Buccaneers were competitive all game. Evans had the best playoff performance of his career with eight catches for 147 yards and a touchdown.

A decision still has to be made on Mayfield, which should be a no-brainer. The Buccaneers have nearly $40 million in cap space. Mayfield just played the best season of his career. Yes, if he returns to Tampa in 2024 he will be working with a new offensive coordinator for the fifth time in three years. That is an issue he will have to deal with regardless of where he plays. The franchise is trying to make the offensive transition as seamless as possible by hiring Liam Coen, who runs an offensive similar to previous OC, Dave Caneles. A change in playcaller is all the more reason to bring back Evans.

The thought that they needed a full-scale rebuild was a logical one for the Bucs following the retirement of Brady. Quarterbacks are difficult to find outside of the early first round of the draft. But if the team did stink in 2023, what sense would it have made to draft a rookie and let Evans walk?

Talents like Evans are not easy to find. Wide receiver play might currently be the best in the history of the NFL, but no one currently in the league has played as well and consistently as Evans. He caught 68 passes for 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie with McCown and Glennon as his quarterbacks. Only father time is stopping Evans, because defensive backs have been trying for 10 years and failed.

What NFL teams are always dreading is keeping a player one year too long as opposed to letting him go one year too early. No one wants to have to do what the Denver Broncos are about to do and get hit with a massive deadcap blow because talent did not produce.

In a hard salary cap sport, those concerns are understandable. Evans, though, had not shown any signs of his play diminishing. It was not his fault that Brady was getting rid of the ball nearly as soon as it was snapped, and he still averaged a shade under 15 yards per reception.

The Buccaneers will likely never employ another wide receiver as talented as Evans. He has said that he wants to retire with the organization. That should be the franchise’s plan for him as long as he is keeping up this 1,000-yard pace.



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