It feels like there are more questions about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers than we can keep track of. The biggest ones pertain to Baker Mayfield, how the offense will perform after last season, and if the team will end up competing or falling deep into the tank.
Lost in the shuffle is the question of what will happen to Mike Evans?
The Bucs legend is entering the final season of his five-year, $82 million contract that kicked in back in 2019, a matter that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
It's not only that the Bucs would want to take care of an outstanding order of business, but Evans is a franchise legend who is owed a swift resolution to his uncertain future. If nothing happens, Evans will be an unrestricted free agent next winter, but pieces. have already been set in motion to avoid that.
Earlier this summer it was revealed that the Bucs had engaged Evans about a potential extension, something he is reportedly very open to. Those aren't the only rumblings around Evans this offseason, though, as the winds of trade rumors have picked up as the national media dumps its stock in the Bucs.
This puts the Bucs in an interesting predicament: trade Mike Evans, extend him, or do both.
Should the Bucs extend or trade Mike Evans?
It's no secret that the most ideal situation is extending Evans and having him finish his career with the Bucs. That won't be cheap, though, and there's also the trajectory of the team to consider. Keep in mind there are other extensions the Bucs need to hand out, and Chris Godwin will be in an identical situation before long.
If the Bucs aren't in a position to compete, it would behoove both the front office and Evans to find a trade that helps everyone out.
Price and preference could end up converging to force this hand if things don't go well this season. If the Bucs fail to extend Evans and the team is in the dumps by the time the trade deadline rolls around, his best value is as a trade chip.
PFF broke down a potential extension for Evans based on his market value, which ended up being about $21 million for four seasons. That seems like a lot, but it'd be yet another team friendly deal for Evans that slightly undervalues him against what other receivers make on the market.
Obviously, there's a certain amount of subjective bias when thinking about Evans' overall value but it's not hard to argue that he's one of the best ten receivers in the league if not higher.
A realistic extension for Evans feels like it'd fall in the $20 million range, which puts him in the same bracket as guys like Stefon Diggs and Deebo Samuel -- a class that Evans belongs in. That'd be a raise based on what he's making now, which is $16.5 million, but he'd also be well within his rights to ask for more.
Given the warm relationship between Evans and the Bucs front office, it's hard to see a scenario where he asks for too much or he gets lowballed. Evans has expressed a desire to remain in Tampa Bay which would mean meeting in the middle with a 4-year, $60 million feels very reasonable and realistic.
There's a third outcome, though, and it involves both extending and trading Evans.
If either party determines they'd no longer like to continue the relationship in Tampa Bay, Evans provides maximum value to both the Bucs and himself if he's on a long-term contract. It provides security for the team acquiring him and allows Jason Licht to ask for more in return.
So there's a scenario where the Bucs extend Evans now but still end up trading him if things go sideways this season. That's not a likely case, but it's on the table.
The likeliest scenario is the Bucs extending Evans at around $20 million, allowing him to probably join Lavonte David as Tampa Bay lifers.