The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and superstar wide receiver Mike Evans have reached an impasse in discussions surrounding a contract extension, according to a report from Rick Stroud. Stroud’s story indicates Evans is likely entering his final season with the Buccaneers. General manager Jason Licht is making a mistake by failing to sign Evans to a long-term deal. The Buccaneers now risk losing their greatest playmaker of all time for nothing.
Evans is currently scheduled to enter the final season of a previously signed five-year, $82.5 million extension. Evans will earn a base salary of $13 million while carrying a cap charge of $23,698,500 in 2023, per Spotrac. Evans had restructured his contract in order to give the Buccaneers more salary-cap space.
Evans, who recently turned 30, has been said to be seeking an extension similar to the three-year, $80.1 million contract signed by Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp. Kupp’s deal included $75 million guaranteed and a $20 million signing bonus. That appears to be rich for a Buccaneers franchise that’s in transition.
The retirement of Tom Brady forced the Buccaneers to enter rebuild mode. Licht entered the offseason a league-high $55 million over the cap and parted with several veterans as a result. The Buccaneers are already looking ahead to the future and haven’t made retaining Evans a priority.
Young defenders like linebacker Devin White and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. are set for free agency in 2024. The Buccaneers are paying quarterback Baker Mayfield just $4 million to start for them in 2023. Re-signing Winfield Jr. and White, and finding an actual quarterback of the future is weighing heavily on Licht’s mind more so than keeping an aging receiver, even if he’s a future Hall of Famer.
Chris Godwin‘s status also looms large. Godwin is three years younger than Evans, which Licht is surely taking into account. Godwin is scheduled to enter the final year of his contract in 2024, which is set to pay the Middleton, Delaware native a non-guaranteed $20 million. The Buccaneers could be reserving breathing room for a Godwin extension.
But there would have been benefits to signing Evans to a short-term extension before the start of the regular season. For one, an extension would have lowered Evans’ aforementioned $23.6 million cap hit. That would provide the Buccaneers, who currently have a measly $1.6 million in cap space per OverTheCap, more flexibility throughout the campaign.
An extension would also lock in Tampa Bay’s most selfless producer for the foreseeable future. In 2022, Evans recorded 77 receptions for 1,124 receiving yards and six touchdowns. It marked the third-most receptions of Evans’ career and a personal best since 2018. The former Texas A&M standout didn’t show signs of slowing down like a 30-year-old receiver typically would. It also represented Evans’ ninth consecutive 1,000-yard campaign, extending his own NFL record.
A youth movement is undeniably underway in Tampa Bay. Thirteen rookies were named to Tampa Bay’s initial 53-man roster, including six undrafted free agents. That accounts for nearly 25% of the Buccaneers’ roster.
Evans will immediately gain entrance into the Buccaneers’ Ring of Honor upon his retirement. It’s difficult to imagine Evans donning another NFL uniform. It’s even tougher to envision Evans leaving the Buccaneers without them receiving compensation in exchange for his services. Both nightmare scenarios are dangerously approaching reality, though.
- Sep 29, 2023
- Sep 29, 2023