When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed Mike Evans in March of 2018 they made him the second-highest paid receiver in the NFL, and the highest paid player on roster in 2019.
With Antonio Brown restructuring his contract to convert a lot of his base salary to bonuses, Evans carried the heaviest cap hit of any receiver in the league for 2018.
Did he live up to the salary? Let’s take a look.
2018 CAP EXPENSE: $18.25M
TEAM COMPARISON: 1st
LEAGUE COMPARISON: 17th
POSITION COMPARISON: 1st
Being the most expensive player on your team carries some pressures, and Mike Evans typically rises to them, which is why it was no surprise when he was voted as a team captain by his teammates.
During much of his career, he’s been surrounded by questions of effort and dedication, but they’ve never been aimed at him.
Instead, he’s been about the only steadfast member of the Bucs roster who’s efforts have seldom - if ever - been questioned, even during moments where he struggled to find consistency in his game.
There’s no doubt he’s worth the price of admission, but is he worth the price of his contract?
Evans has been credited with playing in at least fifteen games in each of his five professional seasons.
This reliability has been key to the team’s successes, and one can only imagine where the Bucs would be if they didn’t have Evans on roster and healthy.
In 2018, the 6’5 star brought in at least four catches in fourteen regular season games, and had ten with six or more. He began the season with a three-game scoring streak, but was then held out of the end zone for three straight.
In total, Evans failed to score in nine of the team’s contests, with six of those resulting in losses.
Getting Evans involved in the offense early is obviously a good thing to do, but it’s hard to produce quantifiable evidence of it as the Bucs still lost five of the seven games Evans did score in.
What is indisputable however, is his production for the team. The most expensive player on the roster finished 2018 first in targets, receptions, receiving yards, touchdown receptions, receptions per game, receiving yards per game, yards per touch, and total yards from scrimmage.
He finished second in yards per reception with 17.7, had the third-longest reception of the year (75-yards), and had the second highest catch percentage securing 62.3% of his targets.
While his team status is impressive, I don’t know many people who want to hang their hat on being the biggest contributor to the fifth-worst organization in their profession.
So, how did Evans rank among other NFL receivers?
Ranking first in cap expense, Evans finished tenth in targets, eleventh in receptions, nineteenth in catch percentage (among WRs with at least 100 targets), third in yards and yards per reception, and finished eleventh in the league with eight touchdowns.
He didn’t lead the league in any receiving category in 2018, but was in or around the Top-10 in each significant one.
Something important to remember as well with all of these numbers that fewer than thirty receivers in the NFL received 100 or more targets in 2018. As much as passing has become a staple in the league, there are still only a small percentage of players receiving the targets from all those passes. Evans was one of them.
Mike Evans was Mike Evans. He had some drops, he got called for some offensive pass interference penalties, and he was criminally underutilized in the red zone.
The further away you are from the ball, the more your play is influenced by other people. Evans’ ability to finish in or around the Top-10 of every significant statistical category shows just how capable he is as a receiver.
Some Bucs fans have questioned whether or not the team has squandered Gerald McCoy’s best days. Entering his sixth-season, the franchise’s best receiver - ever - is nearing the point where people will start wondering the same about him.
2018 was another healthy and productive year. We can only hope he can continue producing these kinds of seasons long-enough for the rest of the team to catch up.
VERDICT: GOOD DEAL
They didn’t get a bargain necessarily. But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got value out of every cent they paid out to Mike Evans.
Of course, to be fair, it’s going to be really difficult to overplay being the top-paid player at your position.
Being a captain gets taken for granted pretty often. Most fans have gotten used to seeing their favorite players or biggest names getting the ‘C’, but this past season for the Bucs showed it was worth more than the surface may show.
It’s not enough to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk if you’re going to gain the respect of your teammates. Evans has done just that.
After being snubbed on the original Pro Bowl roster, Evans is headed to the all-star game as an alternate replacing Julio Jones.
This trip will be the second of his career and makes him the first Bucs receiver to land multiple pro bowl roster spots.
In team history, Evans ranks fifth in career games with Tampa Bay (77) among wide receivers. Fewer than Michael Clayton (84) but more than Reidel Anthony (73).
However, he’s first in every significant receiving category (receptions, yards and touchdowns) in team history.
It’ll be a long time before the Bucs find another receiver as effective and consistent as Evans, making him worth the full weight of his $18.25M cap hit.
At least I think so. What do you think?
What are your thoughts on Mike Evans?
This poll is closed
Overpaid, but the Bucs need him
Overpaid, and the Bucs need to get rid of him
Paid just the right amount
Paid right, but the Bucs still need to move him
Bucs got a bargain
Bucs got ripped off