The one player you always assumed would be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer for life may be moving on after this season. Mike Evans’ agent Deryk Gilmore released a statement regarding the negotiations - or lack thereof - and have given the Bucs until the day before the season to make Evans a “Buccaneer for life” saying;
Full statement by Mike Evans agent setting a deadline of Sept 8 to reach a new deal with Bucs. pic.twitter.com/tG8mHK5pfc— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) September 1, 2023
Evans, who has been with the Bucs since being drafted in 2014, is entering the final year of his contract and the Bucs are still paying off their debts from the Tom Brady years. Now, another tough decision looms for Jason Licht and the front office.
It’s easy to say that because it’s Mike Evans, give him whatever he wants and move on with him locked up - but that’s not the reality of the NFL. The Buccaneers currently have about $19-million in cap space for next year according to Spotrac and Evans isn’t the only guy on a contract year.
Next year’s free agents include Devin White, Antoine Winfield Jr., Lavonte David, Matt Feiler, and Baker Mayfield who is only on the team with a one year deal. If Baker plays well, he’ll need to get paid. If he doesn’t, they’ll have to find a quarterback elsewhere. Add to that the huge contract coming for Tristan Wirfs, Chris Godwin entering the last year of his deal, and other roster spots to fill and you have yourself very little money to retain the core of the team.
Yes, Mike Evans is worth every bit the contract Cooper Kupp received, but with all the other pending free agents can the Bucs continue to afford to pay two receivers $20+ million a year with all these other key pieces and positions needs money allocated to them as well?
On the flip side, very few players in today’s NFL actually make it the duration of their career with one team. Even the great Tom Brady left New England for sunny Florida skies. The Bucs’ own Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and John Lynch left Tampa to continue playing elsewhere. Evans seemed like one of those special people - on and off the field - that would be in Tampa from start to finish. He deserves to be.
While the statement seems like part truth, part tactic, the Bucs and Mike Evans both want to get something done and keep Evans here. He’s great for the franchise, he’s great in the community, and he’s far and away the fan favorite on the roster. Who doesn’t want this to work out?
If there’s no deal done by Saturday, it should raise slight concern but not outright panic. There is the possibility that the Bucs get something worked out prior to free agency and all is well. At the same time, Evans is a person - not just a football player - and emotions can play a role. WIll not getting a deal done cause enough frustration that he decides to test the market and potentially move on to a team closer to getting back to the Super Bowl? Absolutely. He could decide to join Joe Burrow in Cincinnati or Josh Allen in Buffalo - or even go back to Texas and join Dak Prescott in Dallas. There will be plenty of suitors for Evans and his 1,000 yards in free agency, but both sides certainly want to work it out and keep Evans right where he is now.
In early August, Evans said this to ESPN regarding his contract;
“Finishing my career with one team, that would be awesome to do that. I’m sure they want that, and I want it as well. Hopefully we can get an extension. Would be good for both parties.”
Either way, Gilmore has now put the pressure on Jason Licht to get something done with the play of enticing the fanbase and the public to weigh in on the stare-down between the two sides. The only question is, who blinks first?