TAMPA — Every player drafted by the Bucs in the Pro Football Hall Fame came from the defensive side of the ball: Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch and Ronde Barber, who will be inducted in August.
The player most likely to break that streak is receiver Mike Evans.
Evans will turn 30 in August and is in the final year of his contract. He has not only been a model of consistency with an NFL record nine straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons to start his career, he’s an unselfish player at a position not known for that quality.
He’s simply the best offensive player in franchise history.
Todd Bowles was asked last week what stands out about Evans.
“His unselfishness,” the coach said. “He’s willing to go in there and block, he’s willing to run the short routes, the deep routes, he’s willing to pick for people when he gets a chance. His unselfishness and his competitiveness.”
Evans counts $23,698,500 against the 2023 salary cap. Part of that is the result of his willingness to restructure in order to give the Bucs more salary-cap space.
But now it’s time for Evans to receive his third contract from the Bucs.
Those talks have already begun, and there is a willingness on both sides to get something done this summer.
“Mike loves Tampa,” said Evans’ agent, Deryk Gilmore. “I know the feeling is mutual. His production is the best of all the guys out there. ... The Bucs’ ownership has to love that Mike isn’t even an off-the-field conversation but an on-the-field terror. I’ve got to think they would like to lock him up to a third deal.”
A year ago, the Bucs signed receiver Chris Godwin to a three-year, $60 million contract with $40 million guaranteed. That was with Godwin coming off two torn knee ligaments.
What would a new contract for Evans look like? The best comparison may be Davante Adams. He signed a five-year, $140 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders with $65.67 million guaranteed.
Adams has 9,637 career receiving yards and 87 touchdowns. Evans has 10,425 career receiving yards and 81 TDs.
But it’s important to note that Adams played eight seasons with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, and one with Derek Carr and the Raiders. Evans’ roll call of quarterbacks wasn’t nearly as prolific until the final three seasons with Tom Brady. But he’s been willing to share the wealth with players such as Godwin, Antonio Brown and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“Obviously, he’s talented,” Bowles said. “He’s a heck of a pro and competitor. When you stay with one team and you put up those type of numbers, that says a lot about you from a character standpoint and a talent standpoint. He continues to do it.”
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The Mike Evans Family Foundation gala raised $550,000 a year ago to help local youth and their families while taking a stand against domestic violence.
There’s much work to do, but a new contract should be coming this summer that should allow Evans to retire as a Buccaneer.
It’s not Brady’s offense anymore
Continuity wins in the NFL, but change can be a good thing.
A year ago, with Brady going through a very public and personally draining divorce, the Bucs’ offense was pretty stagnant and not very explosive. Overall, the team also lacked energy.
Of course, execution of plays is what wins, but there can be some positive things added by new offensive coordinator Dave Canales.
A disciple of Pete Carroll, his energy has been welcomed by Bucs players.
“Energy. Energy and excitement — that’s the formula we had where we came from (in Seattle), and that’s what he brings,” said safety Ryan Neal, a former Seahawk signed by the Bucs as a free agent. “That’s something that is going to be real prevalent in this offense.
“You’re going to see them celebrating a lot more when they make plays. You’re going to see them having fun. You’re going to see them being enthusiastic. You’re going to see some downfield plays. You’re going to see it all, because that’s the kind of system he runs. It’s real balanced.”
The Seahawks’ offense was very productive a year ago. They had two 1,000-yard receivers in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and a 1,000-yard rusher in rookie Kenneth Walker.
So, what will the Bucs’ offense look like? A lot of zone runs, plenty of movement in the pocket by the quarterback with rhythm throws, mostly to the perimeter.
“The different looks that we give the defense (and) just the different opportunities ... the energy has been great,” said running back Rachaad White. “Obviously, we’re all happy about it. Pocket movement and just getting the defense running side to side — it’s just a well-balanced offense to me.
“Then the shots and the plays you see guys like Chris (Godwin) and Mike (Evans make) and how they are open. Mike comes to the sideline and says, ‘Man, I haven’t really been this open in a minute. It feels good.’ Just seeing things like that. It’s been happiness. It’s been fun.”
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