TAMPA ― There still is time left on the clock. That’s the first thing Mike Evans said about the Saturday deadline he set to reach an agreement on a new contract with the Bucs.
But the Pro Bowl wide receiver indicated Thursday there may not be any overtime when it comes to negotiations to remain in Tampa Bay.
When asked if he would consider returning to the Bucs next season if an agreement isn’t reached by the weekend, Evans was noncommittal.
“Ownership and management are going to do what they feel is best for the team’s future, and I’m going to do what’s best for my future,” Evans said, “and right now that’s just playing some good ball.”
All indications are there has been no movement in talks about a third deal with the Bucs for Evans, who is entering his 10th season. He is the franchise’s greatest offensive player, posting at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first nine years to start his career, an NFL record.
Asked if it was hard for him to think this might be his last season in Tampa Bay, Evans shook his head.
“Nah, like I said, I’m blessed man,” Evans said. “I’ve been blessed to play this game for a really long time. I’ve made a lot of plays. Made a lot of money. It’s not even about that. I’m just happy to be in this position I’m in.”
On Sept. 1, Evans’ agent Deryk Gilmore, released a statement saying Evans would not continue talks beyond Saturday, the eve of the Bucs’ regular-season opener at Minnesota.
Evans, 30, is in the final 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. By the time this season is over, he will have earned $110,362,262 ― most of any player in team history.
Overall, Evans presented a very calm front to negotiations, focusing instead on the competitive football season ahead.
“My agent set the deadline. I mean, I’m sure you read the statement,” Evans said. “Obviously, we’ve been working for over a year now trying to get something done. Any player in my position would want to be solidified and secure. But if a deal is done or not, either way I’ll be OK. I’m looking forward to to having a great season.”
The Bucs began the offseason $55 million over the salary cap. They also have younger players whose contracts are up after the 2023 season, a list that includes inside linebacker Devin White and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. The team also may want to extend tackle Tristan Wirfs, who could be playing under the fifth-year club option.
The Bucs also don’t have a starting quarterback for 2024, as Baker Mayfield signed a one-year, $4 million deal for this season.
What’s more, fellow receiver Chris Godwin will be in the final year of a three-year, $60 million contract. Godwin is three years younger than Evans.
It’s believed that Evans is seeking a contract similar to the one the Rams paid receiver Cooper Kupp, which guaranteed him $75 million over three years.
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Evans said be believed it was possible for the Bucs to retain all those players, including Godwin, while rewarding him with a new deal.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I think other teams have done something similar. But this is my last time talking about contracts. I’m looking forward to having a great season this year and, you know, whatever happens, happens. I’ll be all right.”
Evans said he is looking forward to this season because not many outside the organization believe the Bucs will be very good.
“A lot of doubters,” he said, “so we’re looking forward to shocking a lot of people this year.”
With Saturday’s deadline less than 48 hours away, did Evans believe an agreement could still be reached?
“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ve got a little bit of time left. We’ll see.”
Evans said he is “blessed” to be in the position he is: “A lot of people dream of making it to Year 10. I’m happy to be here. I feel great. I look forward to a great season.”
A lot of that will depend on his connection with Mayfield, the sixth quarterback he has played with in Tampa Bay.
“A lot of energy, a lot of moxie. Great ball placement. Super competitive,” Evans said. “So, I have no doubt about the quarterback.”
Godwin said he can appreciate Evans’ negotiation position.
“I think we all understand that it’s a business, and everyone has to do whatever they feel like they need to in order to protect themselves and their business,” Godwin said.
“I think as professionals, whenever you’re here, you go out and you play. I don’t know if there is a better example of that than Mike. I feel like you wouldn’t even recognize it in the building, because of the way he handles himself. Again, that’s a testament to him. He’s obviously a pro.”
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