As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prepare to open the season up in Minnesota, the biggest question surrounding the team has nothing to do with what will happen in Week 1.
Mike Evans wants a new contract and has told the Bucs that they have until Saturday to give him one he likes. Last weekend Evans' agent delivered an ultimatum, effectively drawing a line in the sand and starting the clock on an eventual decision.
That decision might not be one Bucs fans will like.
Evans is a free agent at the end of this upcoming season, and already his market is starting to heat up. On Thursday it was reported that Evans has 'strong value' on the trade market but the team is not looking to deal him.
If the Bucs don't reach a deal with Evans by the Saturday deadline, the trade rumors that are already getting kicked up will only intensify. Depending on how the season goes for Tampa Bay between now and the trade deadline, the narrative is going to become one that is front-and-center when talking about the team all year long.
Mike Evans addresses contract situation with Buccaneers
For the first time since his agent gave the Bucs an ultimatum, Evans spoke with the media and addressed the elephant in the room. He noted that the two sides have been working together for over a year trying to find common ground but it has only led them to this point.
"We've been working with them for over a year now trying to get something done," Evans said. "Any player in my position would want to be solidified and secure. If a deal is done or not, either way, I'm going to be okay."
Evans was asked if he could see himself returning to Tampa Bay even if a deal isn't reached by Saturday's deadline. His response won't do much to ease any anxiety fans are having over the whole situation.
"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. "This is my last time talking about contract situations, I'm looking forward to having a great season this year and whatever happens, happens."
While it's impossible to stomach the idea of looking at Evans in a uniform other than the Bucs, he's right to be looking out for himself. Evans has been underpaid his entire career when comparing his talents to receivers who are higher paid.
Evans isn't even the highest paid receiver on his own team, which explains his terseness in addressing the situation. It's not that Evans has ill-feelings toward Chris Godwin, but it's an easy thing to point to when demanding a better deal than what he's apparently been offered.
The most likely way this plays out is that no deal is reached by the Saturday deadline, and Evans plays out the season without a contract. Once next offseason rolls around, the Bucs will have a better idea of Evans updated value and can proceed with trying to get a deal done then, with the only difference being other teams would be able to make competitive offers.
It could also be that Evans hits free agency and he doesn't hear the numbers he wants to, but it's starting to sound like that'll be a bridge we don't cross for some time.