Buccaneers GM indicates team is willing to pay Mike Evans and bring him back in 2024

Jason Licht is saying all the right things that Bucs fans want to hear.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

While re-signing Baker Mayfield seems to be the top priority for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason, it's not the only major order of business that needs to be attended to.

Mike Evans is set to hit free agency for the first time in his career, and the Bucs are as close as they've ever been to losing him. He's the best offensive player in franchise history and one of the most important pieces of the team's success, and he needs to be brought back next season.

This is something we've known all year, as Evans broke off contract talks with the team after giving the front office an ultimatum ahead of Week 1. After not reaching a deal, Evans played the season without a contract and ended up proving exactly why he deserves to be paid.

For the tenth straight season, Evans went over 1,000 yards and he finished the year tied with Tyreek Hill for most touchdowns by a wide receiver. He was vital to the offense's success and it was clear how rough things were when he wasn't being used.

That was a glimpse into a future no Buccaneers fan wants to see, and general manager Jason Licht seemingly agrees.

Jason Licht indicates Buccaneers are willing to pay Mike Evans and bring him back

While speaking with the media at the NFL Combine, Licht indicated that the Bucs would be willing to pay up to bring back Evans next season. He remained diplomatic and didn't reveal much of his plan, but he mentioned that the team would probably have to strain, which speaks as loudly as it should.

Tampa Bay won't be placing the franchise tag on Evans, which is set at $21.8 million. That's partially due to the tag being reserved for Antoine Winfield Jr., but also because the Bucs won't try to lowball Evans on a one-year deal. Tagging him might bring him back for 2024 but it would almost guaruntee that he leaves in 2025 and likely on bad terms.

Most projections have Evans in the $25 million AAV range, which is a bit rich for the Bucs' blood but might be the cost of doing business after not having been able to figure things out last offseason.

What likely happens is Evans hits the open market to establish a price, and then the Bucs meet it. Licht saying that the team might have to strain seems like a precursor to the team knowing it will have to pay up to bring Evans back, but signs continue to point more toward the relationship continuing into next season rather than ending in a few weeks.

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