Evans, whose fifth-year option the Bucs are expected to pick up in May, doesn't figure to have a new contract before the 2017 regular season begins, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports. "We have plenty of time here,'' general manager Jason Licht said. "He's a very good player and he knows it's no secret, we want to keep him for a very long time.'' Evans has endeared himself to Bucs brass with a combined 3,578 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns over his first three NFL seasons, and there's little doubt that the Bucs will ensure he never gets close to sniffing unrestricted free agency. However, once they pick up the option for a fifth season as expected, he'll automatically be under team control through the 2018 season at a minimum, giving both the club and Evans plenty of time to hammer out the details of a long-term deal that would presumably keep the towering wideout in Tampa for the prime years of his career. The Bucs would also have the option of utilizing the franchise tag on Evans for the 2019 season in the unlikely event a new contract hasn't been agreed upon by that point.
Evans, who posted a career-best 96 receptions for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2016 while often facing double coverage, stands to significantly benefit from the Buccaneers' addition of receiver DeSean Jackson in free agency. The towering receiver had his work cut out for him in 2016 and responded with an outstanding season, but he was often bogged down by double and triple coverage, especially as the season went on. Former No. 2 receiver Vincent Jackson (knee) was lost for good after five games, and the Bucs eventually saw replacement Cecil Shorts III go down with a gruesome knee injury in Week 13. Outside of TE Cameron Brate, who enjoyed a breakout campaign of his own, Evans had no other pass catcher on the field with him that opposing defenses consistently had to account for, which naturally drove plenty of attention his way. Things should be different now that the speedy Jackson is in town, and although Evans should see a reduction in targets after drawing a whopping 175 last season, he could well convert at a much more efficient rate. The 2014 first-round pick posted 50 and 55 percent catch rates over the last two seasons -- numbers that leave plenty of room for improvement. With the possibility of much more one-on-one coverage, Evans could certainly see an uptick in that department as well as in the career-low 13.8 YPC he posted last season.
Evans set new career bests in receptions (96), targets (175) and yardage (1,321) in the 2016 season, while also equaling a career-high 12 touchdowns. The third-year receiver had come in to the 2016 campaign determined to put what he felt was a disappointing 2015 season behind him, one in which he'd led the NFL in drops and hauled in just over 50 percent of his targets. Evans responded by establishing new career highs across the board, and essentially served as the last man standing in the Bucs receiving corps after injuries felled the likes of Vincent Jackson and Cecil Shorts over the course of the season. He was a highly viable red-zone threat once again as well, hauling in nine of 19 targets and seven touchdowns inside the 20. While his 55.5 percent catch rate still leaves plenty of room for improvement, Evans undeniably took yet another step forward in 2016, and his massive size will continue to render him a prototypical No. 1 receiver heading into 2017. An upgrade of the personnel behind him on the depth chart will likely go a long way into making the Texas A & M product an even more lethal threat next season.
Evans secured five of 11 targets for 65 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 17-16 win over the Panthers. Evans secured less than half his targets but did end up catching the game-winning touchdown, his 12th of the season. The score enabled him to equal the career high in that category that he established in his rookie 2014 campaign. Although he saw an increasing amount of defensive attention as Bucs pass catchers progressively went down with injury throughout the season, Evans still managed to notch a career-best 96 receptions for 1,321 yards, also a high-water mark. He'll thus enter the offseason ready to build on his already impressive rapport with QB Jameis Winston as Tampa looks to build on its 9-7 record in 2017.
Evans gathered in seven of eight targets for 97 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's 31-24 loss to the Saints. Evans bounced back with a much better performance than he'd mustered against this same Saints squad two weeks ago, when he'd been limited to four catches for 42 yards. The third-year wideout turned in his best reception and yardage totals since Week 12 versus the Seahawks, and scored for the first time since that contest as well. Just named to his first Pro Bowl earlier in the week, Evans will try to close out his stellar 2016 campaign with a strong showing against the Panthers in Week 17.
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