TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Mike Evans is flattered whenever his accomplishments as a football player are compared to some of the greatest receivers in NFL history.
Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, and Calvin Johnson are Hall of Famers. Evans has compiled a resume over nine-plus seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that one day very well could land him in Canton, Ohio, too.
“Just to be in the same breath as all of these guys is a tremendous honor and I don’t take it for granted,” said Evans, Tampa Bay’s all-time receiving leader and one of just five players in league history to top 10,000 yards receiving while also catching more than 80 touchdown passes in the first nine years of a career.
Rice, Moss, Harrison and Johnson are the others to do it.
But Evans, 30, is the only player to begin a career with nine consecutive seasons with 1,000-plus yards receiving.
He enters Week 3 of his 10th season needing five receptions Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles to become the first in Bucs history with 700 catches.
“There are not enough nice words to say about how impressive Mike is. He has done something that nobody in NFL history has done, and that’s a testament to who he is as a person and who he is as a player,” teammate Chris Godwin — a three-time 1,000-yard receiver himself — said.
“He comes in and does his job. He is not some diva, who is demanding the ball. Regardless of who the quarterback is, what the situation is, or how many games he plays, he is going to go out there and perform,” Godwin said. “You know what you’re going to get from Mike.”
With Baker Mayfield playing turnover-free ball and Evans catching 12 passes for 237 yards and two TDs after failing to get the new contract he sought during the offseason, the Bucs are off to a surprising 2-0 start following the retirement of Tom Brady.
Evans, who’s in the final season of a five-year, $82.5 million extension he signed in 2018, had six receptions for 171 yards in last week’s 27-17 win over the Chicago Bears. It was his eighth game with 170-plus yards receiving, second most among active players.
Mayfield is the sixth starting quarterback Tampa Bay has had since Evans entered the league as the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft, which yielded a stellar group of receivers that included Davante Adams, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Allen Robinson.
Evans’ resume, which includes a Super Bowl title with Brady and four Pro Bowl selections, compares favorably with others in that class.
Heading into Week 3, the 30-year-old ranked first among peers that began their careers in 2014 with 10,662 receiving yards. He was second in TD catches (83) and career 100-yard games (34), trailing only Adams (88 and 39) in those categories.
“Mike can play with anybody. He can adapt to any offense. It’s not even about the quarterback,” coach Todd Bowles said.
“He can run short routes, deep routes. He can block, he can carry the ball,” Bowles added. “Mike’s thing is not about the quarterback, it’s about being the ultimate professional, and that’s what he is. He has had production every year since he’s been in the league.”
Now he’s off to yet another strong start with Mayfield running a system installed by first-year offensive coordinator Dave Canales.
Evans’ next 1,000-yard season would tie Moss (10) for second most all time. Rice holds the league record of 14.
The 6-foot-5, 231-pound receiver has helped the transition of Mayfield to his fourth team in just over two years.
“He obviously makes your job extremely easy. … He just has an innate ability of getting open and really being friendly at the top of his routes,” Mayfield said.
Evans, who has made it clear he would like to play his entire career for the Bucs, said earlier this month that he’s done talking about his contract. He had hoped to have a new deal by Sept. 9, but insisted “either way I’m going to be OK.”
“I’m blessed to be in this position. A lot of people dream of making it to year 10. I’m happy to be here. I feel great,” Evans said.
“Ownership and management are going to do what they feel is best for the team and the team’s future, and I’m going to do what’s best for me and my future,” the receiver added. “Right now, that’s just playing some good ball.”