This year will be remembered as The Mike Evans Season, both because it's another one of his best and could be his last in Tampa Bay.
Evans is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, and there’s a real possibility that he leaves. The Buccaneers were given an ultimatum before the season to either extend Evans or he’d test free agency in March. No deal was reached, and it’s a cloud that has loomed in the background throughout everything that he’s accomplished this season.
That cloud is almost fitting, because it represents yet another year where his true greatness isn’t being fully appreciated the way it is. Evans crossed 1,000 yards for the 10th time in his career on Sunday, which means he’s done it every single year of he’s played in the league. If he’s able to do it twice more, he’ll pas Jerry Rice for the most consecutive 1,000 yard seasons in NFL history, which is just one of many incredible things he’s done in his career.
All of this happening against the backdrop of his pending free agency has folks more focused on where he’ll next than what he’s doing now. That’s a bit of a theme throughout his career, something that is abundantly clear when hearing his Hall of Fame case discussed.
His case for Canton is growing, but far too many folks seem to be comfortable arguing against it. A weird tug-of-war has been started when discussing whether he’s a Hall of Famer but all the right people seem to be on the right side of the debate.
J.J. Watt thinks Mike Evans is a first-ballot Hall of Famer
Future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt stopped by the Pat McAfee Show on Wednesday and absolutely dropped the hammer on any goofballs who are still trying to argue that Evans isn't destined for Canton. Not only is he firmly on that train, by Watt went to bat for Evans as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
"Hall of Famer," Watt said, definitively. "Somehow, for a guy who has had 1,000 yards every single year of his career, he's underrated and he shouldn't be. He should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, I think he will be, and I think we should appreciate his game because it's pretty special."
That sound you just heard was Bucs fans all over pounding the table in agreement with Watt.
Context is everything when making these sorts of arguements, and Evans has that on his side as well. He has entered an iconic class of recievers who had all have one thing in common: more consistent quarterback play than Evans has ever had.
Rice had two Hall of Famers throwing to him with the Niners while Randy Moss broke a single-season record with Tom Brady; Evans spent the bulk of his career with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston, Josh McCown, and Mike Glennon.
He’s been consistenly great for an entire decade despite having the bad quarterback luck he’s had. Evans did get to have Brady throw him the ball, but that was just 30 percent of his career. A good comparison seems to be Larry Fitzgerald, who didn’t have great quarterback luck but is still considered to be a lock for Canton.
What the future holds for Evans in terms of his contract is uncertain and a source of major anxiety, but it’s starting to feel like his future beyond football is undeniably clear.