Evans participated in Thursday's OTA after being absent all of last week, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports.
It's another encouraging development for a Bucs offense that's already receiving plenty of hype this offseason. Evans and DeSean Jackson will have plenty of opportunity to build their chemistry with Jameis Winston in training camp and preseason, although Jackson was notably absent from Thursday's session.
Evans is looking to be a more vocal leader entering his fourth season, particularly in the wake of veteran Vincent Jackson's departure, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
The Bucs' No. 1 wideout will be joined in the starting lineup by veteran DeSean Jackson this season, but entering his fourth season in Tampa, it's Evans who feels the duty of assuming a more overt leadership role in the receiving corps. In addition to V-Jax, valued locker room figures Louis Murphy, Cecil Shorts and Russell Shepard have also departed since midseason last year, making Evans one of the elder statesmen of the incumbent group. The towering pass catcher sees himself in a similar position to Jameis Winston, who was much more of an assertive presence within the offense in just his second season last year. One of the most definitive paths to being perceived as a true leader is to continue churning out Pro Bowl-caliber seasons the likes of 2016, when Evans tallied a career-best 96 catches for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Evans, the seventh overall pick in 2014, ranked in the top six league-wide last season in catches (96), targets (175), receiving yards (1,321) and receiving touchdowns (12), making Tampa Bay's decision to exercise his fifth-year option a no-brainer. At 23 years old, Evans is already among the league's elite at his position, and figures to play a huge role in continuing to advance quarterback Jameis Winston's development going forward. As a result, it'd be no surprise if the Buccaneers open talks with him over a long-term contract extension soon, but until then, he'll boast the security of now having an extra year on his current deal.
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 team's 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 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. Those types of scenarios should mostly be in the past now that the speedy Jackson is in town, and although Evans should see an overall reduction in the whopping 175 targets that went his way 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, respectively, numbers that leave plenty of room for improvement. With the possibility of much more one-on-one coverage with Jackson opposite him, Evans could certainly see an uptick in that department, as well as the career-low 13.8 YPC he posted last season under frequent duress.
|P1||8/11/17||@ CIN||7:30 pm|
|P2||8/17/17||@ JAC||8:00 pm|
|1||9/10/17||@ MIA||1:00 pm|
|3||9/24/17||@ MIN||1:00 pm|
|6||10/15/17||@ ARI||4:05 pm|
|7||10/22/17||@ BUF||1:00 pm|
|9||11/5/17||@ NO||1:00 pm|
|Bye: Week 11|
|12||11/26/17||@ ATL||1:00 pm|
|13||12/3/17||@ GB||1:00 pm|
|16||12/24/17||@ CAR||1:00 pm|
|2014||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||15||15||68||1051||15.5||56||12||20||4||46|
|2015||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||15||14||74||1206||16.3||68||3||21||2||63|
|2016||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||16||96||1321||13.8||45||12||15||1||81|
|2014||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||15||4||4.0||0||0||0||0||0.0||0||0||0|
|2015||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||15||5||5.0||0||0||0||0||0.0||0||0||0|
|2016||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||1||1.0||0||0||0||0||0.0||0||0||0|
|Year||Team||G||Fum||Lost||Fum Forced||Own Rec||Opp Rec||Yds||Tot Rec||TD|
|2014||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||15||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|2015||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||15||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|2016||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||16||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|