The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set to enter the early phases of a rebuild, and they might be doing it without one of the best players in franchise history. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, wide receiver Mike Evans is giving the organization until the start of the regular season before cutting off contract negotiations. Evans reportedly wants to be a “Buc for Life”, but if the two sides cannot reach an agreement, Evans will not discuss a new deal until the end of the 2023 season.
“We have been working on extending Mike’s career with the Bucs for over a year, and we want the fans to know this is not a tactic and the ball is in the owner’s court. That said, we are giving the Bucs until the start of the regular season to make him a Buc for Life, and if that…
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 1, 2023
Mike Evans Gives Contract Ultimatum, Could A Trade Happen?
Mike Evans is entering the final year of a five-year, $82.5 million extension he signed all the way back in 2018. Generally speaking, players who sign deals like this start to slow down towards the end of their contract, but Mike Evans has remained one of the most reliable players at the position.
Last year, the wideout finished the season with 77 receptions for 1,124 yards and six touchdowns on 127 targets. While fellow receiver Chris Godwin had more receptions, Evans led the team in receiving yards and touchdown receptions as the team earned their third consecutive playoff appearance.
It’s hard to predict if Mike Evans will receive another contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Seeing as he’s entering his age-30 season, this will likely be the last time Evans has a real shot of earning a massive payday. While he can still play at a high level, nobody is able to hold off Father Time indefinitely.
There will be a team out there willing to sign Evans to a short-term deal with good guaranteed money, but Tampa Bay might not be that team. The organization went all-in for the final years of Tom Brady’s career, and that gamble won them a Super Bowl. However, now that Brady is retired, the bill has come due.
Tampa Bay is going to need some time to rebuild their young core before they’re ready to seriously compete again. The team could very well finish with a top-five pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, and even if they find a way to get Caleb Williams or Drake Maye, one rookie quarterback cannot fix this roster overnight.
The Buccaneers will need at least two or three years to rebuild their roster, and Mike Evans might be past his prime once that happens. This makes him an ideal trade candidate, as Tampa Bay will probably want to maximize their return for a player who could be the missing piece for a Super Bowl contender.
Possible Trade Destinations
Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs
The two most likely fits are easily the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills. Arguably the two best teams in the AFC, these two juggernauts find themselves in remarkably similar situations. Both teams have an elite quarterback, one first-class receiving option, and a whole lot of question marks after that. Evans could easily be the second-best option in both offenses, as the wideout’s ability to stretch the field matches up perfectly with both Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. Chances are, Tampa Bay is going to see if they can compete in a weak NFC South and if/when they can’t, they’ll trade Evans. Once that happens, his cap hit will be lower, which will make it possible for the Chiefs or Bills to take the Mike Evans contract.
Alternatively, the Baltimore Ravens could also be in on a potential Mike Evans trade. On paper, the team is set at wide receiver with Odell Beckham, Rashod Bateman, and Zay Flowers. If all of these guys play up to their potential, then the depth chart is in good shape. However, if Beckham can’t recapture his old form, Bateman can’t stay healthy, and Flowers plays like a rookie, then this team is in trouble. Mike Evans provides a safe floor with a high ceiling and is ultimately the perfect fit for this offense. Even if all three players perform well in 2023, this team still needs a big-bodied redzone threat like Evans.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers would probably prefer to trade Mike Evans to an AFC team, but they could be compelled to ship him to a team like the New York Giants if they make the best bid. Fresh off their surprising playoff birth, Daniel Jones and company need to prove that the 2022 season wasn’t a fluke. Darren Waller was a smart add, but Mike Evans will provide some much-needed support on the outside.
While this last team is incredibly unlikely, it’s possible the Carolina Panthers try to pursue Mike Evans. The Panthers have the worst receiving corps in the NFL, and they need to find somebody to make life easier for Bryce Young. Obviously, Carolina and Tampa Bay share a division, so this will probably never happen, but it’s certainly worth noting.
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