TAMPA — The agent for Mike Evans set a deadline of Sept. 9, the eve of the Bucs’ regular-season opener, for the team to reach an agreement on a new contract with the Pro Bowl receiver or he and Evans will discontinue talks.
In a statement released Friday, Evans’ agent, Deryk Gilmore, said the Bucs have not made an offer and discussions with the team will be discontinued the day before Tampa Bay plays at Minnesota.
“Mike wants the next phase of his career to be with an organization who wants him and wants him to help win a Super Bowl,” Gilmore said in the statement. “Which is why we have informed the Buccaneers organization that we will discontinue contract discussions as of September 9, 2023.”
Evans, 30, is in the last season of a five-year, $82 million deal he signed in 2018.
Gilmore said Evans has wanted to be a “Buc for life” since he was drafted seventh overall out of Texas A&M in 2014.
“Despite our efforts the past two years, and the professionalism of Bucs general manager Jason Licht and assistant general manager Mike Greenberg, we have not received an offer to stay in Tampa,” Gilmore said in the statement. “This is disappointing to Mike as he sees other teams step up to keep key pieces and players that are important to their organization. Many players of his status would’ve held out of camp to not risk injury, but Mike has continued practicing hard, as always, because he puts his team first.”
Evans is believed to be seeking a deal similar to the three-year, $80.1 million contract signed by Rams receiver Cooper Kupp that included $75 million guaranteed and a $20 million signing bonus. Kupp, 30, missed the final eight games last season with an ankle injury and now has a hamstring injury.
Evans currently counts $23,698,500 against the salary cap, predominately because he had restructured his contract to allow the Bucs to sign free agents during their three years with quarterback Tom Brady.
Gilmore said the deadline is not a negotiating tactic and talks on a new deal have been ongoing for parts of two years.
“We have been working on extending Mike’s career with the Bucs for over a year, and we want the fans to know this is not a tactic and the ball is in the owner’s court,” the statement said. “That said, we are giving the Bucs until the start of the regular season to make him a Buc for life, and if that cannot happen, 100 percent of Mike’s focus will be on football and his future and where he can continue to make an impact.”
The Bucs have had some awkward partings with iconic players. They released linebacker Derrick Brooks, a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer, in 2009 as part of a purge of veterans announced in a one-page statement. Brooks opted to retire rather than accept an offer from the Saints.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
They sent safety John Lynch packing after failing him on a physical. He went on to make the Pro Bowl for four more seasons with the Broncos and join Brooks in the Hall of Fame. They allowed defensive tackle Warren Sapp, another player elected to the Hall on the first ballot, to sign as a free agent with the Raiders.
The Bucs have made a concerted effort to get younger this offseason. They parted ways with left tackle Donovan Smith, running back Leonard Fournette and kicker Ryan Succop in cost-cutting moves. After three years of spending wildly on free agents with Brady at quarterback, they were $55 million over the salary cap.
That’s why 13 rookies were selected to the 53-man roster, including six undrafted free agents.
Statistically, Evans is the best offensive player in club history and is trying to extend his NFL record of nine straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons to start a career.
He has 10,425 career receiving yards, second most among active players, along with 81 touchdowns.
“When you have a player that will be a Hall of Famer and still has four to six years left to make an impact in the league, you move Heaven and Earth to keep him on your team,’’ the statement said. “And we would hope ownership feels the same way.”
However, the Bucs have a couple of Pro Bowl players set to become free agents in 2024, including linebacker Devin White and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. They also could opt to extend All-Pro tackle Tristan Wirfs rather than have him play under a fifth-year club option.
What’s more, their quarterback position is unsettled. Mayfield is playing under a one-year, $4 million contract. The Bucs will need to spend heavily to secure a starting quarterback in 2024, whether that’s Mayfield or someone else.
Receiver Chris Godwin, who at 27 is three years younger than Evans, in 2024 will be in the final year of a contract that will pay him $20 million and that is not guaranteed.
At the start of training camp, Evans said his focus was on preparing for the season and not his contract situation.
While Evans has not asked for a trade, he may not be opposed to one, especially if it came with a new contract.
“Of course, I’d love to finish my career here,” Evans said. “There’s really nothing I can do about it. I’m not going to stay home and make a big deal about it. So, I’m just out here working as hard as I can. That’s what I’m doing. I’m here. I’ve always loved being here, and obviously, I want to stay here, and I’m sure they want to keep me.
“But it’s a business.”
Contact Rick Stroud at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @NFLSTROUD.
• • •
Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.