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2024 Buccaneers Free Agent Focus: Mike Evans

As WR Mike Evans closes in on 100 career touchdown catches and burnishes a resume that the Hall of Fame won't be able to resist, there is the possibility of him testing free agency for the first time in his career


Since Mike Evans has essentially never had a down year over a decade in the NFL, comparing his 2023 season to any of his previous campaigns may not tell us much. That said, Evans turned 30 shortly before the start of last season, and where that may have led some onlookers to expect a drop in his output, quite the opposite proved true. Evans' 1,255 receiving yards were his most since 2018 and his 13 touchdown grabs tied for the league lead. He even had his highest per-catch yardage total since 2019.

That also proved to be the last season in the lengthy extension he signed with the Buccaneers in 2018. Evans pushed to get a new deal done with the only NFL team he has known to date in the summer, but when that didn't happen he chose to shelve the topic until after the season's conclusion. Thus, there is the possibility that Evans will test the unrestricted free agency market for the first time in his illustrious career.

It seems obvious that Evans is a high priority for the Buccaneers as they seek to navigate a tight salary cap situation while keeping their most productive players in the building. Just as obvious is that Evans is a fan favorite in Tampa, and deservedly so. After his 10th straight outstanding season seemed to erase any doubt that he will eventually land in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the question now is will he join the likes of Lee Roy Selmon, Derrick Brooks and Rondé Barber as Canton residents who spent their entire careers with the Buccaneers?

Evans is one of 18 players from Tampa Bay's 2023 roster who could become unrestricted free agents on March 13, and it's not likely the team will be able to retain all of them for the 2024 season. Priorities on that list will be set and pursued. And so, in the weeks leading up to the start of the new league year, we are going to look at 10 players who are currently poised to become unrestricted free agents in mid-March. This is the full schedule of our 2024 Free Agent Focus rundown:

This list is subject to change based on potential roster moves in the coming weeks. However, we will continue today with the most accomplished offensive player in Buccaneers history.

Player: Mike Evans

Position: Wide Receiver

Age at the Start of the 2024 Season: 31

Experience: Entering 11th NFL season

How Acquired: Drafted in the first round (seventh overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Previous Contract(s): As a first-round draft pick since the 2011 CBA, Evans got the standard four-year contract with a fifth-year team option. The Buccaneers did exercise that fifth-year option during the 2017 offseason but before it took effect in 2018, Evans signed a five-year extension that covered the 2018-23 seasons. Over the years, he agreed to restructurings of that deal multiple times in order to create cap space.

Rank in Pro Football Focus **Top 200 NFL Free Agents** for 2023: 13th. PFF comment: "Another starting quarterback in Tampa Bay? Another 1,000-yard season from Mike Evans. The record-setting 10th straight season to start a career with 1,000-plus yards is one thing, but an 83.9 receiving grade with double-digit touchdowns for the third time in four years is extraordinary."

2023 Performance: As noted above, Evans showed no signs of slowing down as he crossed into his 30s, leading the Buccaneers with 1,255 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns while snaring 79 passes and averaging 15.9 yards per grab. He tied Miami's Tyreek Hill for the most touchdown catches in 2023 and ranked ninth in the league in receiving yards.

Evans also led the Buccaneers with 195 receiving yards during the team's two-game postseason run, catching 11 passes, averaging 17.7 yards per snag and scoring one of the team's six touchdowns.

Evans scored at least one touchdown in 12 of the Bucs' 19 games, playoffs included. He had three more 100-yard receiving games in the regular season, also scoring in each of those three contests, and the Bucs won all of them. Evans averaged 73.8 receiving yards per game, nearly identical to his career per-game mark, and topped 50 in 11 of 17 contests.

Career Accomplishments: Evans has been in the NFL for 10 seasons and famously has ended each one of them with more than 1,000 receiving yards. That's far and away the record for most such seasons to start a carer (Randy Moss is second with six) and it's also just one behind Jerry Rice's record of 11 straight at any point in player's career. With 14, Rice is the only player in NFL history with more 1,000-yard receiving seasons than Evans, who is currently tied for Moss for second. Evans has joined a trio of Hall of Famers – Rice, Moss and Marvin Harrison – as the only players ever to surpass 11,000 receiving yards and 90 touchdowns over their first 10 seasons.

With his 13 touchdown catches in 2023, Evans methodically climbed up the NFL's all-time list in that category. He'll head into 2024 ranked 13th on that list with 94, and the only active player ahead of him is the Raiders' Davante Adams, with 95. Evans will need just six more touchdown grabs to crack the top 10, which seems well within his reach given that he's only finished a season with fewer than six TDs on two occasions.

Evans is the Buccaneers' all-time leader in receptions (762), receiving yards (11,680), touchdown receptions (94), overall touchdowns (95) and 100-yard receiving games (36…plus four more in the postseason). He needs just 15 more points to add the Bucs' all-time scoring lead to his collection. Evans is the most accomplished offensive player in Tampa Bay's franchise history and he seems certain to be the first player on that side of the ball who played the majority of his career with the Buccaneers to make it into the Hall of Fame.

Other Potential Free Agent Wide Receivers: Tee Higgins (Bengals), Michael Pittman (Colts), Marquise Brown (Cardinals), Calvin Ridley (Jaguars), Darnell Mooney (Bears), Gabe Davis (Bills), Odell Beckham Jr. (Ravens), Tyler Boyd (Bengals), Curtis Samuel (Commanders), Kendrick Bourne (Patriots), D.J. Chark (Panthers), Michael Thomas (Saints), Josh Reynolds (Lions)

Top Wide Receiver Prospects in 2024 NFL Draft: Marvin Harrison Jr. (Ohio State), Malik Nabers (LSU), Rome Odunze (Washington), Brian Thomas (LSU), Troy Franklin (Oregon), Ladd McConkey (Georgia), Tez Walker (North Carolina), Adonai Mitchell (Texas), Keon Coleman (Florida State), Xavier Worthy (Texas), Ja'Lynn Polk (Washington), Devontez Walker (North Carolina), Ricky Pearsall (Florida), Roman Wilson (Michigan), Xavier Legette (South Carolina)

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