The Buccaneers have been discussing an extension with their longest-tenured starter since early this summer. While the team is transitioning from the Tom Brady period, agreements with pillars acquired before the legendary quarterback’s arrival took place this offseason.
Tampa Bay re-signed Jamel Dean and Lavonte David, doing so despite sitting well above the salary cap entering the offseason. Brady’s $35.1MM dead-money charge, brought about from the void years the franchise tacked on for cap purposes, hamstrung the Bucs. But they have managed to retain key players. They want Mike Evans to join that list.
The contract Evans signed back in March 2018 has been passed over by many receivers over its duration. At the time, the $16.5MM AAV made Evans the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver. Illustrating this position’s importance in the modern game, that number now sits 17th among wideouts. Evans’ less accomplished teammate, Chris Godwin, passed him amid the 2022 receiver market boom. Godwin signed a three-year, $60MM extension after the Bucs franchise-tagged him for a second time.
Due to the increasingly void years-reliant Bucs tacking three such years onto Evans’ deal via restructures, the team would be hit with a $12.2MM dead-money charge if Evans is not re-signed by the start of the 2024 league year. Naturally, the Bucs want to avoid that scenario.
“I can’t see Mike playing anywhere else,” Licht said, via The Athletic’s Dan Pompei (subscription required). “I hope and think we can figure something out so he can retire a Buc. We want Mike to be here long term.”
Squarely on the Hall of Fame radar after becoming the first receiver to start his career with nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Evans is going into his age-30 season. He should not be considered a candidate to eclipse Tyreek Hill‘s $30MM AAV — a number that will likely soon be surpassed, as Justin Jefferson aims for a Vikings extension — but the Bucs will likely need to authorize a raise for a player entering his 10th season.
Evans totaled 27 touchdown receptions from 2020-21, but as Brady and the offense regressed last year, he finished with just six scores — his fewest since 2017. But the 6-foot-5 target has remained durable, missing more than one game in a season on only two occasions (three absences in 2019, two last year). Suspensions have also brought on some of those misses for the Marshon Lattimore nemesis.
The Texas A&M alum will be a vital piece for the post-Brady Bucs, who are still deciding between Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. With Antoine Winfield Jr. also a 2024 free agent (and an extension candidate), the Bucs will have some decisions to make soon. The Bucs have done well in letting players play out their contract years before re-signing them. Dean, David, Carlton Davis, Shaquil Barrett and Ryan Jensen are a number of recent examples of Licht and Co. retaining players despite those talents reaching the open market. The void-years component complicates the Bucs following suit with Evans, but a third contract for the greatest wideout in team history has been on the radar for a bit now.