When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants drafted Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr., they were excited about the futures of their newest stars.
Both futures came to fruition quickly as they hit the ground running in year one and never looked back.
Since 2014, Evans is sixth in the NFL in receiving yards (4,579) and OBJ is right behind him at seventh (4,442). Beckham Jr. is eighth in the league in receptions with 313, Evans just cracks the top ten with 309. When it comes to touchdowns, Evans is seventh (32) to Beckham Jr.’s second (38).
And for those into advanced metrics, Evans has graded out on average at an 84.78 while Beckham Jr. has graded at 83.78 - just a point shy of Evans - according to Pro Football Focus.
It’s easy to see why they were paid hefty contracts before the season started. By outperforming their rookie contracts right off the bat, their respective franchises deemed them worthy of a payday before they hit the open market and became even more expensive.
Both players’ production is very similar, but it’s pretty obvious that if OBJ doesn’t miss time in 2017 then his numbers would be higher than Evans’ across the board.
But that doesn’t mean that OBJ is eons better than Evans, it’s quite the opposite. They are completely different players that make their hay in different ways. The size difference between the two is just the beginning.
There is also another subtle contrast and that would be their paychecks. On Monday, Beckham Jr. was signed to a five-year extension that maxes out at $95 million and includes a total guarantee of $65 million. Back in March, Evans signed a five-year, $82.5 million extension that included $55 million guaranteed.
Beckham Jr.’s injury history is the biggest issue with his extension, but it’s also a positive when it comes to evaluating the talented receiver’s career. Despite missing 16 games in four seasons, Beckham Jr. has managed to produce at an elite level.
It remains to be seen how he comes back from his broken ankle and if he doesn’t return to his old form then the Giants may be in trouble. Regardless of the injury, if he doesn’t live up to this deal then it will be tough for New York to cut ties with him.
The same can’t be said for Evans and the Bucs. According to spotrac.com, even though his contract contains $55 million in guaranteed money, the Bucs have a chance to rid themselves of Evans before March of 2020 with no penalty. It’s the same scenario in 2021 and beyond - if the Bucs don’t want him, they don’t have to keep him in order to save their bottom line.
As they say, the devil is in the details and that certainly seems to be the case with Beckham Jr.’s contract.
Sure, he doesn’t take much of a cap hit in year one like Evans, but the Giants are more invested in the long term. Beckham Jr.’s cap hit supersedes Evans’ by $3.75 million on average each year after 2019 and it’s impossible to cut him without running into dead money.
Where the Bucs’ and Giants’ upper management further departs are the bonuses. I’m not too sure as to what the Giants’ cap situation was before this deal was made, but they had to prorate the signing bonus over the duration of the contract, whereas the Bucs were a bit craftier.
Instead of prorating money, Tampa Bay decided to lump Evans’ guaranteed money into a 2018 roster bonus and a fully-guaranteed 2019 salary. Because unless something absolutely drastic happens, there is no way Evans doesn’t make this roster next year.
Evans even makes more money over the short-term than Beckham Jr., which is good for Evans considering the fact that teams often backload contracts so they can tear up - or restructure - a player’s contract as they get older.
This also gives Evans more bargaining power towards the end of his current deal, assuming he continues the pace that he is currently on. Since Beckham Jr.’s salary will still be very high over his remaining years, the Giants could use that against him as he attempts to negotiate a new deal - which is usually a recipe for a headache.
Beckham Jr.’s behavior is an added risk factor to his contract, on top of the injury history. Evans hasn’t been a saint himself either - see Marshon Lattimore - but it’s safe to say he has kept himself out of the spotlight far less than Beckham Jr. has been able to manage.
And what happens when Eli Manning decides to retire? The Bucs have a tiny bit of a question mark with Jameis Winston, but he’s not planning to retire any time soon. Will Beckham Jr. mesh with his new, eventual quarterback the way he has with Manning?
Even though that’s more of a big-picture question/scenario, it feels like it should be considered when paying this amount of money to a player that you
hope want to have on your team in the future.
Tampa Bay has put themselves in a very good position contract-wise while managing to pay one of their best players exactly what they deserve. While Beckham Jr. deserves what he is making, it’s not as good a deal as what the Bucs gave Evans - both in the short and long term.
Regardless, now it’s up to both superstars to go out there and do what they’re paid to do.