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Mike Evans Buccaneers

Should Buccaneers Trade Mike Evans This Offseason?

  • Justin Melo
  • February 17, 2023
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are entering an offseason that calls for creativity. The Buccaneers are currently projected to be $55.5 million above the salary cap, according to Spotrac, the worst in the NFL. Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht must get sacrificial while getting his Buccaneers to become cap compliant ahead of the new league year in March.

Tampa Bay’s less-than-desirable cap situation has led to trade rumors surrounding wide receiver Mike Evans. From the outside looking in, trading Evans appears to be a realistic outcome. Further analysis indicates the Buccaneers are unlikely to deal him this offseason.

Evans is entering the fifth and final campaign of a previously signed five-year extension worth $82.5 million. Evans is set to earn a base salary of $13 million while carrying a cap charge of $23.6 million, via Spotrac. Releasing or trading Evans pre-June-1 isn’t a viable option. Either one would create a useless $2.3 million in cap flexibility while generating an unmanageable dead cap hit of $21.3 million.

Trading or releasing Evans post-June-1 would manufacture $14.5 million in cap space while creating dead cap charges of $9.1 million in 2023 and $12.1 million in 2024. It’s worth acknowledging that post-June-1 trades can’t be completed before June and designated as Post-June-1 moves the way roster cuts can. The Buccaneers would have to be cap compliant prior to trading Evans in June. That eliminates the necessity to create financial flexibility by trading Evans, as such sacrifices will have already occurred elsewhere. I’m also not buying into the Buccaneers outright releasing Evans when there are better solutions available.

The likelier outcome sees the Buccaneers signing Evans to a multi-year extension this offseason that lowers his immediate cap charge. Evans has been one of the NFL’s most dominant and consistent pass-catchers since he entered the league in 2014. Evans notched his ninth consecutive 1,000-yard season in 2022, extending his own NFL record. Evans has plenty of gas left in the tank and signing an extension would be beneficial for both parties.

Licht will have to make sacrifices this offseason. Several high-end contributors such as Leonard Fournette are potential cap casualties. Licht spent the past three seasons delaying financial pitfalls to give Tom Brady the best supporting cast possible to maximize their Super Bowl window of opportunity. Brady has now officially retired and the chickens have come home to roost.

The Buccaneers’ financial situation, paired with Brady’s retirement, makes them unlikely to re-sign a ton of aging veterans who played the 2022 season on expiring deals. The likes of Lavonte David, Akiem Hicks, Julio Jones, and Logan Ryan are among Tampa’s 23 unrestricted free agents. None of them are expected to return in 2023, and Licht will have to replace their talents with draft picks and low-cost signings.

Licht must leave himself with enough wiggle room to sign a new starting quarterback that’s capable of getting the ball to Evans and Co. The Buccaneers aren’t going to be players for Derek Carr (their rival Saints and Panthers are), Aaron Rodgers, or even Jimmy Garoppolo. Signing a bridge-type quarterback such as Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield or Mitchell Trubisky qualifies as more realistic. Re-signing Blaine Gabbert is another option.

The Buccaneers are going to look significantly different in 2023. They’ll be almost unrecognizable, with new faces at quarterback and across various starting positions. Brady’s retirement represents the end of a short-lived, but successful era. Noteworthy roster turnover is guaranteed. Don’t expect Evans to be among the outgoing group, however.

Written By

Justin Melo