TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa Bay has less than a week left to make star wide receiver Mike Evans a “Buc for life,” according to his agent Deryk Gilmore.
Evans, who is entering his 10th season in the league, all with the Bucs, gave the team two choices: Extend his contract and allow him to retire in the Buccaneer Red and Pewter Grey, or let him continue his legacy elsewhere.
Gilmore released a statement Friday saying he and Evans informed the Buccaneers organization that they will “discontinue contract discussions” on Sept. 9, a day before the NFL regular season starts. Evans is entering the final year of his contract.
“Despite our efforts over the past two years, and the professionalism of Bucs General Manager, Jason Licht, and Assistant General Manager, Mike Greenberg, we have not received an offer to stay in Tampa,” Gilmore’s statement read. “This is disappointing to Mike as he sees other teams step up to keep key pieces and players that are important to their organizations. Many players with his status would have held out of camp to not risk injury, but Mike has continued practicing hard, as always, because he puts his team first.
“When you have a player that will be a Hall of Famer and still has four to six more years to make an impact in the league, you move Heaven and Earth to keep him on your team, and we would hope ownership feels the same way.”
With the Bucs roster filled with young players and Evans having just turned 30, the organization might not be willing to spend the money this time around. Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud reported that the Bucs are “no longer interested in spending big money on 30-something-year-old players after running up that tab during the Brady years.”
Just before free agency began, Tampa Bay was more than $55 million over the salary cap, which forced them to purge veteran players, and the Bucs are still footing the bill on retired quarterback Tom Brady’s contract, according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine.
Laine stated that Brady’s contract counts $35 million against the salary cap this year – the Bucs $76.76 million in “dead money is the most of any team in the NFL.” However, they’re projected to have $46.91 million in salary cap space next season.
But Evans’ agent said the Bucs don’t want to pay two receivers over $20 million a year, and fellow WR Chris Godwin is entering the second season of his three-year, $60 million deal ($40 million guaranteed).
According to Laine, the team recently reconstructed center Ryan Jensen’s contract. He was placed on the injured reserve (IR) list last month, ending his season before it even began.
Evans also reconstructed his contract three times to allow for more salary cap flexibility, Laine stated, adding that WR Russell Gage, who was also placed on IR, took a pay cut to remain a Buc.
If the Bucs took the franchise-tagging route, it would cost them $28.43 million in 2023, and Evans would most likely hit the open market, NFL Writer Kevin Patra said.
Tampa Bay also has multiple Pro Bowlers up for new contracts in 2024 aside from Evans, such as linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White, safety Antoine Winfield Jr., and left tackle Tristan Wirfs. It should be noted that White sparked headlines in the offseason when he publicly requested a trade. Looking back, White said the request was “a little selfish” and will play on his fifth-year option this year.
More so, Tampa Bay still hasn’t settled their quarterback position. While Baker Mayfield is the starter this year, the QB only signed a one-year contract, meaning the Bucs could look elsewhere for a more long-term quarterback if Mayfield or Kyle Trask doesn’t work out.
But alas, having a long-term quarterback isn’t as exciting if you don’t have ole reliable No. 13 downfield ready to make a play. In each of his nine seasons, Evans has recorded 1,000-plus receiving yards, the longest active streak in the NFL.
According to the NFL, Evans’ 10,425 receiving yards and 81 touchdowns each rank in the top three NFL since he entered the league in 2014.
When Bucs general manager Jason Licht was asked whether or not the team would make roster moves to free up cap space to keep Evans, Licht said, “There [are] a few things that we can do. We have some ideas of what we can do for that, and obviously, we want to keep that between us. There are a few things we can do.”
If the Bucs are able to move things around to keep the star wide receiver, Evans has already expressed his passion and desire to stay in Tampa; it’s just up to the organization to get the deal done.
“It’s no secret that I want to be a Buc for life,” Evans said. “It’s rare for players to stay, especially this day and age, to stay on a team for as long as I have. I want to just finish here.”