One of the biggest storylines of the season in Tampa Bay has been spoken about in a whispered tone for most of the year. Mike Evans began the season by giving the Buccaneers an ultimatum to sign him before the season or risk losing him in free agency this March.
No deal was reached, and Evans has responded by having one of the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career. He eclipsed 1,000 yards for the 10th straight time, continues to set franchise records, and remains adored by fans. Evans has also been a major piece of the Bucs success on offense, and it's painfully clear how big of a factor he is when not being used properly.
With the season winding down, and the Bucs firmly in the playoff spotlight, the national conversation is shifting back toward Evans and what will happen to him this offseason.
Buccaneers Rumors: NFL GMs are keeping an eye on Mike Evans
According to The Athletic's Diana Russini, at least two NFL GMs told her that they think Evans is playing the best football of his career -- which means they're keeping a watchful eye on him ahead of free agency in March.
She also notes that while GMs are clearly keeping tabs on Evans, the Bucs plan on trying to keep him even if his price might have gone up.
"Evans started the season as an impending free agent after the Buccaneers decided not to extend him, and based on his performance this year, the price may have gone up. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had two general managers not named Jason Licht share that they believe Evans is playing the best football of his career. And the Bucs want to keep him," Russini reported.
Neither of those two things are terribly surprising, but we've heard very little about one of the biggest upcoming decisions the team needs to make. Evans has spoken about his contract situation twice since making an ultimatum before Week 1, and the Bucs have shied away from addressing it as well.
It seems to be a mutually agree upon omerta, especially considering that both sides have made it known they want to continue the relationship long-term. Evans hasn't been shy about telling anyone who will listen how much he loves Tampa Bay, its fans, and the organization while Jason Licht speaks about the wide reciever as though he's one of his sons.
We also know that teams are circling like sharks to try and steal the future Hall of Famer away from the Bucs. It was reported that Joe Douglas and the New York Jets checked in on a potential Evans trade, but were turned away. It's also hard to look at the situation in Kansas City and not think the Chiefs would make amends with Patrick Mahomes by getting him Evans.
Evans has no doubt proven he's worth his preseason asking price, but that's a figure that has probably gone up. It's one the Bucs very clearly should match, though, as he's been one of the most important pieces of the recent turnaround and remains one of the most beloved players in franchise history.
If the Bucs don't value him, someone else most certainly will.