Buccaneers fans attending or tuning in to last week’s Pro Bowl were no doubt disappointed to see wide receiver Mike Evans get into only a handful of plays in which he was never thrown a ball.
They were no doubt concerned when they learned later on that the reason Evans was limited to making nothing more than a cameo appearance because he was ‘’dinged up’’ and didn’t want to risk further injury.
Clearly Evans made the smart move, but his decision looks even smarter when you realize that Evans is now in a very critical period as it pertains to his future earnings potential.
For starters, the Bucs have between now and May 3 to pick up the fifth-year option on Evans rookie contract, a move that is all but guaranteed because Evans would become an unrestricted free agent in March of 2018 if they don’t.
Just how big of a “bargain” has Evans been? Well, this past season he made a shade under $4 million while the top five highest paid receivers in the NFL all made $14 million or more.
In addition, the Bucs have now entered the window where they can begin negotiating a contract extension that will keep Evans in a Buccaneers uniform far beyond his projected fifth year in the league.
That is almost sure to happen, too, perhaps as soon as this summer, but if it doesn’t fans needn’t worry that the Bucs have suddenly soured on the idea of retaining Evans or that he’ll somehow slip away.
Fears like those were expressed regarding the futures of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, linebacker Lavonte David and running back Doug Martin but the Bucs eventually retained them all.
They’ll eventually do the same with Evans but they very well may exercise that fifth-year option just to make sure they have all the time allotted them to work out the best deal possible for both sides.
Like Evans deciding to all but sit out the Pro Bowl, it just makes smart business sense for the Bucs to expand the window they have to get a new deal done for Evans so look for the team to pick up that option.
And by the way, should the Bucs do that, Evans will become the first Buccaneer to have his option picked up since the NFL started giving all rookies four-year contracts with fifth-year team options in 2011.
The Bucs traded safety Mark Barron before his third year in the league was up, they passed on picking up the option for Martin and they didn’t have a first-round pick in 2013.
That means Evans will be in rare company which is another reason why it made good sense for him to sit out the Pro Bowl. Sure, it would have been nice to see him make a few plays, but Evans was thinking long-term.