The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ surprising season is finally over, but now they’ve got some huge decisions to make. Primarily about the futures of Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans in Tampa. Both would like to stay, and with Evans being homegrown, he’ll likely have some influence on the team when it comes to Mayfield receiving a new deal. But like any other contract situation, they’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of tying up big money to both players.
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Mayfield had a bounce-back year and certainly earned the opportunity to continue as Tampa’s starting quarterback, but at what cost? If you’re the Buccaneers’ front office you’re questioning whether you want to be tied to him long term after a Geno Smith-esque turnaround. Now, Baker hadn’t fallen as far as Smith, but many had written him off due to mostly inconsistent play prior to arriving in Tampa Bay. You’ve got to ask yourself if this was an anomaly or if Mayfield can be the guy over the next three to five years.
With Evans, it feels like he should be first in line to re-sign, especially since he’s been with the franchise his entire career. However, this isn’t always the case, especially once a player hits the magic mark of age 30. He’ll turn 31 in August just before the start of the 2024 campaign, but unlike Mayfield, Evans has been a model of consistency in the NFL.
It hasn’t mattered who the coach, offensive coordinator or quarterback has been, Evans shows up and plays through most injuries and produces. Evans just completed his 10th NFL season and has never finished with fewer than 1,000 yards receiving. In half of those years, he’s had double-digit touchdown catches. During the 2019 season, Evans played in 13 games, the lowest of his career. He caught only 67 balls that year and still accumulated more than 1,100 yards.
Even with all those accomplishments, we know how organizations view players above 30. Evans has been one of the most underrated players of his generation playing in Tampa. He’s been outstanding the past decade, but other than his five Pro Bowl selections, there aren’t a ton of individual accolades on his resume. Having that Super Bowl helps a lot, but it feels like Evans has always been in the background of NFL wide receivers. He’s not a diva and doesn’t speak much publicly. That’s one reason his team loves him. No drama.
However, it seems as if Evans wants Mayfield back as his QB for the long haul. That’s where this becomes a huge dilemma, especially if you aren’t completely sold on Mayfield. Signing Mayfield, 28, to an extension beyond two years could be a major risk, especially when you factor in the QB market. Some think Mayfield could jump into the $40 million per year range with this extension. Yes, it sounds absurd, but that’s where we are in 2024.
These Buccaneers shocked most of the football world with the season they pulled off, led by Mayfield and Evans. But tying up so much money in a QB who’s been average (and sometimes barely that) for most of his career, could wind up being the move that sinks this battleship. Evans is also a risk but less of one because you already know what you’ve got there. The Bucs will likely lock up Evans and make sure he ends his career there, but take cautious steps toward a new deal with Baker.