Mike Evans has agreed to restructure his contract with the Buccaneers (Twitter link via Greg Auman of The Athletic). The wide receiver has done this several times before, enabling the Bucs to have more cap flexibility.
Evans’ last recent restructure came in September of 2021, bailing out the Bucs at a time when they had just $200K in breathing room. This time around, he was scheduled to count for $20.62MM against the cap. Now, Tampa will have an extra $10.3MM to work with.
This is likely a simple restructure, one that converts much of Evans’ base salary into a bonus. Assuming that’s the case, the crux of his deal will remain unchanged. As it stands, Evans is signed through the 2023 season, plus some void years for extra salary cap magic.
Evans, 28, notched 74 receptions for 1,035 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. He’ll look to top those totals this year alongside Chris Godwin (who has a shiny new deal), Breshad Perriman, and newcomer Russell Gage.
Over the past week, Mike Sando of The Athletic and former player (and current FOX Sports Radio host) Rich Ohrnberger both reported that recently-retired (?) Buccaneers QB Tom Brady had grown frustrated with some of the team’s coaching. Ohrnberger specifically delineated issues that Brady had with HC Bruce Arians, and he added to that narrative with a series of tweets on Saturday night. Per Ohrnberger, not only did Arians take a figurative red pen to the game plans that Brady and OC Byron Leftwich would devise together, but Brady and Leftwich also had significant disagreements, particularly with respect to the run game.
Ohrnberger further noted that there is a feeling of resentment towards Arians in the building, because he has a “much lighter work schedule” than others players/coaches. In his own Twitter thread, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times adamantly refuted Ohrnberger’s reporting, saying that Arians — now 69 and with a history of health problems, including a recent Achilles injury — accepted his post on the condition that he would not be heavily involved in the game-planning, and that he did not take a red pen to anything. Stroud added that Arians’ work schedule was lighter by design, thereby implying that no one within the organization resents him for it. In fact, Stroud says he has not heard anything from any player or assistant to lend credence to Ohrnbeger’s report:
Now for more out of Tampa, beginning (of course) with additional Brady-related items:
Arians himself fired back at Ohrnberger’s original reports on the matter (via Stroud in a full-length piece), though Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk believes this is a classic example of protesting too much. In Florio’s estimation, Ohrnberger — who played with Brady for three years in New England and who enjoys a close friendship with Buccaneers assistant coach A.Q. Shipley — has plenty of credibility here, and Florio is inclined to believe Ohrnberger’s take on the Brady/Arians rift.
And if Ohrnberger is, in fact, accurate, then that would obviously add more ballast to the rumors that Brady actually wants to play in 2022 and that he is simply trying to finagle his way out of Tampa. Indeed, as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes, longtime Brady teammates Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman believe Brady will be back, though Volin suggests it will be with a different team despite what he classifies as a “great relationship” between Brady and the Bucs. Volin adds that Brady may also want to buy into an NFL ownership group, and he names the Raiders and Dolphins as possibilities in that regard.
Bucs receiver Mike Evans is on the team’s side when it comes to the divorce between Tampa Bay and fellow wideout Antonio Brown. In a recent interview with Matt Harmon of Yahoo! Sports, Evans detailed the moments leading up to Brown’s famous midgame exit in the Bucs’ Week 16 matchup with the Jets, and he indicated Brown’s departure was spurred by his lack of targets. “You know, he was saying he wanted the rock, and I mean, rightfully so,” Evans said. “But like, yo, come in the game, AB. … They’re calling for us, because me and him are both on the pitch count, because we’re both coming back from injury. And so I’m trying to get him to come in the game. And he doesn’t come. So I go back on the drive. I do my two plays. I come out. And then I see [Arians] still trying to get him to come in the game. And they had like a falling out somehow. And AB goes off. … So I’m telling him, please don’t go out like this. And they’re calling me to come back in the game. So I just left him alone like, all right.”
Now for one from the non-drama department. Per Greg Auman of The Athletic, the Bucs are promoting Tim Atkins from quality control coach to defensive and special teams assistant (Twitter link). Atkins was on DC Todd Bowles‘ staff with the Jets and has spent the last three seasons on the Bucs’ staff.
December 24th, 2021 at 12:45pm CST by Sam Robinson
Le’Veon Bell joined the Buccaneers earlier this week. They are his fifth team and fourth in the past 14 months. Following the Ravens’ decision to waive him earlier this season, the 29-year-old running back considered retirement, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com notes. While Bell has not been much of a factor since his final Steelers season, in 2017, he had not been an in-season free agent for a lengthy stretch until this year. The Ravens cut Bell on Nov. 16. The Bucs, who are in need at running back after Leonard Fournette‘s IR placement, may well give him an opportunity on third downs and as a change-of-pace option behind Ronald Jones. Bell also expressed regret for how public his Steelers franchise tag dispute became in 2018, though the former All-Pro said he does not regret skipping that season. While that move ended up benefiting Bell financially, via the lucrative guarantee he received from the Jets in 2019, his career has never recovered from that decision.
Here is the latest from the NFC South:
Although the Panthers have drifted out of contention and have gone 10-20 under Matt Rhule, the drumbeat of the ex-college HC staying on for a third season continues. Despite Carolina’s 4-10 record, Rhule is still expected to receive a third season, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required). David Tepper, naturally, is unhappy about being 0-for-4 in winning seasons as owner; this will put more heat on Rhule if/once he comes back in 2022. Rhule returning gibes with what we’ve heard out of Charlotte in recent weeks. Rhule received a monster contract in 2020 — seven years, $62MM — but has not delivered just yet, largely due to decisions at quarterback. The Panthers have bounced from Cam Newton to Teddy Bridgewater to Sam Darnold to P.J. Walker and back to Newton over the past year and change. Rhule said this week Darnold will return to action and play some against the Bucs.
Sean Payton returned to Saints headquarters Friday, Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com tweets. Payton contracted the coronavirus for a second time and missed New Orleans’ shutout win in Tampa. He will be back for a coaching assignment that will involve game-planning for rookie Ian Book’s first regular-season snaps. Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian are on the Saints’ COVID-19 list.
Hill’s second Saints extension will pay between $40MM and $95MM, depending on his role. Hill’s 2022 salary ($10.1MM) is fully guaranteed, with his 2023 base ($9.9MM) becoming guaranteed in March 2022, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. However, the other components of this contract are more complex. Hill’s 2023-25 salaries can increase by $12MM per year if he throws at least 224 regular-season passes the previous year. That prospect will hinge on how the Saints proceed at quarterback in 2022, when Jameis Winston is a free agent. There are also $18MM in incentives included, Florio adds, with many of those escalators tied to passing statistics. Essentially, this is a two-year, $20MM deal with significant upside for Hill, who will be 32 by Week 1 of next season.
The Bucs‘ Week 15 injury avalanche will indeed cost them Mike Evans for at least one game. The Pro Bowl wideout did not practice this week and will miss the Bucs-Panthers matchup Sunday. Evans suffered a hamstring injury against the Saints. The Bucs will also be without Fournette and Lavonte David, whom they placed on IR Thursday, due to injuries suffered last week. Chris Godwin is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Godwin was forced out in the first half of last night’s game against the Saints with a knee injury. As recently as this morning, the Bucs were optimistic about his outlook — doctors believed that he was dealing with an MCL sprain that would only shelve him for a few weeks. Unfortunately, it’s far worse than that. Godwin is now set for surgery and an offseason of rehab as the rest of the Bucs push for another title.
As expected, Godwin has been a focal point of Tampa’s offense this year. Through 14 games, he notched 98 catches for 1,103 yards and five touchdowns (as well as one rushing TD). Even with the impending return of Antonio Brown, his presence will be sorely missed.
On the plus side, the Bucs have received better news regarding fellow star receiver Mike Evans and running back Leonard Fournette. Their hamstring injuries may cost them time, but they should be ready to go sometime before the playoffs (via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport).
The timing is doubly bad for Godwin since he’s months away from free agency. Before the injury, he was poised to shatter the WR market. He’s currently fifth in the league with 1,103 yards, trailing only Cooper Kupp, Justin Jefferson, Davante Adams, and Tyreek Hill. Up until the injury, he was in line for something similar to his breakout 2019 — 1,333 yards with nine scores.
The Bucs, now without Godwin, remain in the NFC South driver’s seat at 10-4. They’ll have a chance to clinch on Sunday when they face the Panthers.
Evans was initially slated to earn $16.637MM this year. Now, a big chunk of that will be reclassified as a bonus to give the Buccaneers some much-needed space. After recent moves, the Bucs had less than $200K to work with. Now, they can afford to add veterans where necessary.
Evans’ base salary of $12.25MM will shift to a veteran minimum $1.075MM base salary with a $11.18 million in bonus (Twitter link via Auman). The bonus will be prorated over multiple years, lowering his cap number by $8.94MM, if they add three void years. If they add just one more void year, they’ll still shave off $7.45MM.
The star receiver has reworked his contract multiple times already to accommodate the team. He even volunteered to take a pay cut back in February, in order to keep the band together. Through sheer cap magic, the Buccaneers didn’t have to take him up on his offer — they retained tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receivers Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, inside linebacker Lavonte David, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, edge rusher Shaquil Barrettfor another big run.
Evans, who just turned 28, finished last year with 70 catches for 1,006 yards and 13 touchdowns. For his career, Evans has a per-16-games average of 80/1,248/9.
On the heels of two dominant games to close out the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl-winning season, Shaquil Barrett is on course for free agency for a third straight year. The Bucs signed him to a low-cost deal in 2019 and franchise-tagged him last year. Barrett is eyeing his long-term payday in 2021.
“I’m most definitely looking forward to getting a long-term deal done,” Barrett said during an interview with Sirius XM Radio’s Adam Schein (via CBSSports.com). “I feel like it’s time for me to break the bank now, and I most definitely want to do that to be able to set my family up better.
“I want to be here. I think we got a great team here, a great organization here. So we will definitely go on just to see how it works out and shake up. But I’m looking forward to trying to get something done here.”
A former Division II recruit who transferred to Colorado State when his previous school (Nebraska-Omaha) dropped football, Barrett spent his first NFL season (2014) on the Broncos’ practice squad as a UDFA but became a key role player in Denver from 2015-18. Only the Bucs and Bengals offered Barrett deals in 2019, when Tampa Bay landed him for $4MM. Following his franchise-record-breaking 19.5 sacks in 2019, the Bucs franchised him. Barrett recorded eight regular-season sacks but added four in the playoffs. He registered a season-high eight pressures in Super Bowl LV and hit Patrick Mahomes four times during Tampa Bay’s dominant defensive outing.
Were the Bucs to tag Barrett again, the price would come in at $18.99MM. Six edge rushers average more than that on average, with Joey Bosa and Myles Garrett each securing extensions worth at least $25MM annually last year. Bruce Arians did not guarantee all the free agents-to-be would return, but the veteran head coach is confident the team can keep them.
“I spoke to each and every one of them personally. Nobody wants to leave, but we all know it’s a business,” Arians said, via The Athletic’s Greg Auman (subscription required). “I think we’ll be very, very competitive.”
The Bucs managed to keep Barrett, Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul last March, while giving Tom Brady a two-year, $50MM fully guaranteed deal. But Tampa Bay entered the 2020 offseason with more cap space. This year, their space hovers around $30MM — depending on where the cap settles. Arians added that he does not believe Mike Evans will need to take a pay cut to help the team fit the veterans onto its 2021 payroll.
“Mike Evans is the most unselfish superstar I’ve ever met,” head coach Bruce Arians told Peter King of NBC Sports. “He’s told us to use some of his money if we need to contracts to keep the team together.”
Evans has helped the Bucs move money around in the past, including a 2019 adjustment that converted $2MM of his base salary into a signing bonus. The layout of his deal — a five-year, $82.5MM extension inked less than two years ago — allows for flexibility with no guaranteed dollars from this point forward.
Evans may seek some locked-in dollars in exchange for his cooperation. But, either way, the Bucs will probably take up Evans on his offer, especially with the possibility of a $180MM cap this offseason.
Bill O’Brien‘s final weeks with the Texans were trying, with the team going 0-4 and the former head coach-GM’s near-universally panned DeAndre Hopkins trade benefitting the Cardinals early. But the since-fired HC also was involved in some internal turmoil, with Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reporting O’Brien engaged in heated disputes with J.J. Watt and first-year defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver at a recent practice (Twitter link). O’Brien also verbally sparred with other staffers in his final weeks, per Wilson. That can be expected given the Texans’ start, but the Watt argument may have been a tipping point. The dispute with Watt — arguably the defining player in Texans history — resulted in O’Brien losing the team, in the view of one source (via ESPN.com’s Dianna Russini). The O’Brien-Watt argument took place days before the Texans’ loss to the Steelers.
Here is the latest from the South divisions, moving first to more Titans news:
At least three separate Titansoffsite workouts took place last week over a multiday period, veteran NFL reporter Paul Kuharsky notes. A group that included Ryan Tannehill was spotted working out Sept. 30 at Montgomery Bell Academy, an area high school, while Kuharsky reports a different group — comprised of defensive backs — worked out at a park near Belmont University that day. Multiple workouts took place at the park near Belmont, per Kuharsky, who adds that Mike Vrabel said during an Oct. 1 Zoom call he told players not to conduct offsite workouts. The NFL is now investigating the Titans for this, and punishment for the coronavirus-stricken team could be severe. Tight end MyCole Pruitt, one of the Titans’ positive testers, was not at the offsite workouts, per Titaninsider.com’s Terry McCormick (on Twitter).
Prior to the Titans being barred from their headquarters, the NFL showed images of players and staffers walking around the team’s facility without masks, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Aside from players during workouts, team personnel are required to wear masks inside team facilities. Twenty-three Titans players and staffers have tested positive for COVID-19.
Good news for the Falcons on the virus front. First-round cornerback A.J. Terrell returned to practice this week, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com tweets. Terrell missed Atlanta’s past two games after being placed on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list just before the Falcons’ Week 3 game.
For the sect of non-Chris Godwin fantasy managers who might have missed this (and the narrower swath of LeSean McCoy deep-league GMs), both Buccaneers will miss Thursday night’s game against the Bears. The Bucs declared Godwin and Shady out. This marks Godwin’s third missed game this season; he is battling a hamstring injury. Mike Evans, however, will play, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter). Evans was a game-time decision because of an ankle injury.
Eli Apple is set to miss more time. After successfully rehabbing one hamstring injury, the Panthers cornerback has encountered another. Matt Rhule said the recent acquisition pulled his other hamstring, per Joe Person of The Athletic (on Twitter). Apple missed Carolina’s first three games because of his initial hamstring injury. He has played just six snaps (all on special teams) this season.