That’s how ESPN NFL insider Dan Graziano sees it amid the Bucs entering the post-Tom Brady era. Uncertainty only increased in recent days amid Evans’ agent, Deryk Gilmore, setting a Saturday, September 9, deadline for the Bucs to get a new deal done for Evans.
“Teams spent the offseason struggling for solutions at wide receiver, and not all of them found those solutions. The demand will continue as the season rolls along and as injuries set in. The Buccaneers are in rebuild mode after Tom Brady’s retirement, and they’re carrying almost $77 million in dead cap money this year, trying to dump as much of that hit as possible into this year so they can go back into acquisition mode next year,” Graziano wrote.
“Moving Evans or Godwin to a contender [assuming, as we are, that the Bucs aren’t one] at the deadline would help with that project,” Graziano continued. “Evans is the more movable one, because he’s making just $13 million in salary this year and is a free agent at year’s end, while Godwin has a [non-guaranteed] $20 million due in 2024. But you’ll hear these names kicked around in October for sure.”
Evans will become a free agent in March 2024 if the Bucs don’t sign him to a new deal before then. Godwin has a three-year, $60 million contract that will expire after the 2024 season.
National Expectations Remain Low for Bucs
Whether or not the Bucs plan to rebuild this year remains debatable despite Brady’s retirement and 13 rookies on the 53-man roster. Bucs leadership has expressed their intent to compete for a third-straight NFC South crown and the playoffs.
The national media hasn’t backed down from the rebuilding or tanking narrative for the Bucs — a complete collapse from the Brady era. NBC Sports’ Peter King says he still expects the Bucs to be at the bottom of the league.
“I got a lot of guff in the preseason or during the offseason when I rated the Bucs 31st on the list,” King told Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio on September 1. “I don’t know if they’ll be 31st, but they’re not going to be ninth. They’re not going to be 16th.”
Mike Evans’ Path to a Big Contract Faces Challenges on and off the Field
King also noted that Evans catching balls from Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield — and possibly Kyle Trask — could impact the longtime Bucs star’s value in the wide receiver market. Evans wants a contract akin to Los Angeles Rams star wideout Cooper Kupp, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
That would require Evans to remain one of the top 10 wide receivers in the league, Florio and King alluded to. Kupp averages $26.7 million per year according to Over The Cap for third in the league.
“The Bucs aren’t going to pay him that,” Florio said.
Florio also shot down the franchise tag as an option for the Bucs with Evans because it will cost the team around $28 million. The Bucs have a projected $19.7 million in salary cap space for 2024.
Matthew Davis covers the NFL for Heavy.com, focusing on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. As a contributing writer to the StarTribune, he has also covered Minnesota prep sports since 2016. More about Matthew Davis
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