September 9: Confirming the expectations set up yesterday afternoon, Adam Schefter of ESPN has reported that the Buccaneers will officially not be meeting Evans’ player-imposed deadline for a contract extension. Several reports, including those of ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, indicate that Tampa Bay is not expected to trade Evans and will let him play out his contract year and head for free agency in the offseason.
Even at age 31, Evans is set to be a priority free agent after topping 1,000 yards receiving in every single season of his nine-year career in Tampa Bay. If he can deliver another strong outing catching passes from the arms of Mayfield and, potentially, Kyle Trask, it should secure at least one more strong contract for the Bucs’ all-time leading receiver.
September 8: Mike Evans gave the Buccaneers a Saturday deadline to finalize an extension, but after a multiyear stretch without a known offer coming the Pro Bowl wide receiver’s way, it never looked like the team would meet that deadline. It does not appear the Bucs will.
The team does not have plans to extend Evans at this time, The Athletic’s Dianna Russini tweets. This could bring a quicker-than-expected end to Evans’ tenure with the franchise. While Evans has expressed hope of staying in Tampa throughout his career, the Bucs’ all-time leading receiver certainly could become a trade candidate. It would be unlikely the team would cuff him with the franchise tag ahead of his age-31 season.
Although Russini notes the Bucs still value Evans — their all-time receiving leader by a wide margin — the team would have until October 31 to unload him in a trade. The Bucs will use Evans to see if Baker Mayfield can bounce back from two forgettable seasons, but his name seems all but certain to come up in trade rumors. Evans is going into his age-30 season and holds a record no one else has approached. Evans’ nine 1,000-yard seasons are two more than any other pass catcher has ripped off to start a career. Evans’ consistency aside, it does not look like he will collect a third contract from the Bucs.
Tampa Bay extended Evans on a five-year, $82.5MM deal in 2018; the receiver market has changed substantially since that point. Evans’ AAV came in behind only Antonio Brown‘s second Steelers extension at the time of signing; it has dropped to 17th. Far less accomplished receivers have passed Evans, including his own teammate. The Bucs extended Chris Godwin on a three-year, $60MM deal in 2022, doing so after applying a second franchise tag. At 27, Godwin is three years younger than Evans. While Godwin’s long-term place with the post-Tom Brady Bucs is uncertain as well, he is a much better bet to be back in 2024 compared to Evans.
Prior to landing Evans with the No. 7 overall pick, the Bucs had not had much luck finding a long-term wide receiver staple. Veterans like Vincent Jackson, Keenan McCardell and Joey Galloway helped the cause during stretches earlier this century, but Evans checked in as a reliable outside target from the jump. Brady and Jameis Winston utilized Evans as a go-to target, and the Texas A&M alum will enter this season with 10,425 receiving yards. No one else has topped 6,000 as a Buccaneer.
Evans stands to be a big name in free agency, potentially on his way to the market after this year featured a modest class. A team that trades for Evans would have exclusive negotiating rights until next year’s legal tampering period. Despite GM Jason Licht saying he wanted Evans around long term earlier this summer, the Bucs’ exclusive negotiating rights have not produced an agreement. The Bucs also lost Russell Gage, moving sixth-round rookie Trey Palmer into a more prominent spot. UDFAs Rakim Jarrett and Deven Thompkins are the only other wideouts on Tampa Bay’s roster.
The Jets could make sense as an Evans suitor, ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini writes. New York losing Corey Davis to a mid-training camp retirement and having some questions behind WR1 Garrett Wilson could make them an interested party. Other teams will surely call the Bucs as well in what could be one of the more interesting receiver trade markets in recent memory.