By the end of next season, Mike Evans will likely be the all-time leading receiver in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history. The good news: He's going to have plenty of time to add to that record.
Actually, it's fantastic news for the Buccaneers. On Friday, Evans agreed to a five-year contract extension with the team, a transaction that was probably the most critical thing the team needed to accomplish this offseason. Just the third player in NFL history to start his career with four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Evans is the type of homegrown, cornerstone talent the Buccaneers want to build around.
Evans's new deal is actually a six-year contract, with the first year replacing his original deal for 2018 and the extension lasting through the 2023 campaign.
Evans joined the team as the seventh-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. As is the case with all first-round picks, he received an original four-year contract with a team option for a fifth year. The Buccaneers exercised that option before the deadline last year, of course, but had a new contract not been signed Evans would have been scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next March. The Buccaneers had no desire to let him get away, and Evans was obviously motivated to continue his stellar career in Tampa, as well.
In his first four seasons, Evans caught 309 passes for 4,579 yards and 32 touchdowns. His yardage total in that span ranks sixth in the NFL and his touchdowns are tied for seventh. Among all players with at least 300 receptions since 2014 – a list that includes the usual suspects of the NFL's elite receivers, such as Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham and Larry Fitzgerald – Evans's average of 14.8 yards per catch is second only to Jones's average of 15.4. Evans is also a master at moving the chains; he has produced a first down on 79.3% of his career catches, the best mark in the NFL in that span.
On the Buccaneers' career receiving yardage chart, Evans has already risen to third, behind only Mark Carrier (5,018) and Kevin house (4,928). He would need only 440 receiving yards in 2018 to take over the top spot, which would obviously be far below his expected production. Evans also needs just three more touchdown receptions to take over the franchise's career record in that category, surpassing Jimmie Giles (34).
Evans follows in the footsteps of Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David as highly successful Buccaneer draft picks who earned a second long-term deal with the franchise. That's the goal with every draft pick, and keeping Evans in the fold is a major accomplishment. The team may have similar tasks in the years to come with the likes of Jameis Winston, Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith, Kwon Alexander and others.
Evans burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2014 with 68 receptions for 1,051, immediately setting a new franchise single-season record with 12 touchdown catches. His receptions and yardage totals increased each of the next two years, to 74 for 1,206 in 2015 and 96 for 1,231 in 2016. In that latter campaign, he tied his own record with another 12 touchdown grabs. In the process, Evans formed what is likely to be the most potent QB-WR combo in franchise history with Winston, the first-overall draft pick in 2015.
After playing in his first Pro Bowl following the 2016 season, Evans added his fourth 1,000-yard campaign last fall, catching 71 passes for 1,001 yards and five touchdowns.