Mike Evans, Cameron Brate took different paths to new six-year deals with Bucs

Tampa Bay Bucs Mike Evans and Cameron Brate laugh at a joke from general manager Jason Licht. (Alessandra Da Pra, Times)
Tampa Bay Bucs Mike Evans and Cameron Brate laugh at a joke from general manager Jason Licht. (Alessandra Da Pra, Times)
Published March 13

TAMPA — Mike Evans and Cameron Brate sat next to each other Tuesday at One Buc Place, celebrating the announcement of matching six-year extensions that keep two of the Bucs' biggest offensive stars under contract through the 2023 season.

They had different perspectives on their newfound jackpots — Evans, as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 draft, had an $8.9 million signing bonus before he played his first snap, while Brate came to Tampa Bay on the other end, as an undrafted player who has had four years of league-minimum deals.

Brate, cut by the Bucs three times and having never made more than $690,000 in a season, just got $18 million guaranteed as part of a $41 million contract. The Harvard grad has shared an apartment with teammates Adam Humphries and Ryan Griffin, and coach Dirk Koetter joked about the relatively modest lifestyle he's enjoyed.

"Adam Humphries called and said Cam still owes him for the cable bill this month," Koetter said.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht spoke to Brate's humility, saying he ran into Brate at 717 South, one of his favorite restaurants, and when he recommended the sea bass, Brate bristled at the $39 entree, saying he couldn't afford it.

"Mike and Cam come from different backgrounds. They've had different paths to get to where they are today," Licht said. "They both have the perseverance factor … They're both extremely hard workers, passionate, they hold themselves accountable and they're selfless. Those are the qualities we look for in a Buccaneer."

And while Evans — fresh off an $82-million deal himself — just bought a home in Houston to go with one here in Tampa, the two share the same goal of getting the Bucs back to winning football after a disappointing 5-11 record last year. The two have combined for 49 touchdowns in their four seasons and are looking forward to many more from Jameis Winston.

"He's a young quarterback. He's hungry and he has all the time in the world to keep getting better," Evans said. "We have to clean up some things as a team … We're a young team and I think this is our year. We're making good moves already, so I'm looking forward to this season."

Wednesday is the first day teams can add new free agents, but the Bucs' priority has been keeping their own, and Evans and Brate have been the biggest part of that in advance of free agency.

"Jason and I both believe that's how you build a successful franchise," Koetter said. "In Mike's case, you draft him. In Cam's case, you develop them or they develop themselves. … To grow your own guys … to get them to their second contract, that's the best way to grow a franchise. We do have a really good young core, and we're looking forward to how the future goes with these guys."

The Bucs have also re-signed veteran cornerback Brent Grimes to a one-year deal and tendered younger players like Humphries and running back Peyton Barber to keep their nucleus intact. Evans said the new contract won't change his approach or his motivation to help his team win.

"Same plan as always: work my tail off and try to be the best player I can be," Evans said. "By that, I mean one of the best in this game, hopefully one of the all time. I've got to keep working, and God willing I stay healthy. That's all."

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.