ATampa Bay Buccaneers icon is very possibly playing out his final months with the team.
Mike Evans is entering the final year of his five-year, $82 million contract with the team that drafted him in 2014. But Evans and the Bucs are reportedly not close to a new contract, and the 30-year-old could walk away for nothing as a free agent next spring.
Sides far apart in negotiations
Tampa Bay soared over the salary cap during the Tom Brady years as the franchise sought to maximize the aging quarterback’s final NFL seasons. It worked — the Buccaneers, with Brady and Evans as key contributors — won Super Bowl LV after the 2020 NFL season, the second championship in franchise history.
But now the bill has come due. Evans will count nearly $24 million against Tampa‘s cap this season, as he restructured his contract to give the team more flexibility to add “win-now” pieces over the past few years. The 30-year-old is now looking for a contract similar to Cooper Kupp‘s in Los Angeles — a three-year deal worth $80 million, with $75 million guaranteed.
As such, Evans and the Bucs have reached an impasse that looks set to result in the player’s departure.
Where will Evans go?
NFL fans are already chiming in on where they expect Evans to end up once he leaves Tampa Bay — whether through free agency or via a blockbuster trade.
Some on social media believe Evans — who has 10,425 career receiving yards over nine seasons — would be a good fit in Baltimore as a true #1 receiver for Lamar Jackson.
Many others think Evans is destined for the Big Apple, where he would team up with another win-now quarterback who just joined the New York Jets. Evans and Garrett Wilson would form a lethal combo catching passes from Aaron Rodgers at MetLife Stadium.
It’s not entirely certain whether the Bucs will look to trade Evans in the 10 days before the 2023 NFL season starts, or even at the midseason trade deadline. Evans is scheduled to hit free agency when his contract expires after the season — and if Tampa Bay doesn’t find an acceptable trade partner, fans should get ready for a fierce bidding war over the four-time Pro Bowler.