Around the NFL: Mike Evans Staying in Tampa, Combine Winners and Losers, More

Rome Odunze

The wide receiver free agent class took a hit this morning with Mike Evans deciding to re-sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We’ll discuss that and the NFL Scouting Combine winners and losers in Indianapolis last week and how their performances could impact their NFL Draft stock.

Mike Evans is staying in Tampa Bay

Mike Evans, the star wide receiver of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has agreed to a two-year, $52 million contract extension to stay with the team. This move prevents Evans from exploring the free-agent market, considered a significant victory for the Buccaneers.

The Athletic’s Dianna Russini shared this from Evans’ agent Deryk Gillmore:

“Mike just called me last night and said I want to be a BUC for Life. Myself and Darren Jones have worked hard to get this deal done.”

The new deal will pay Evans an average of $26 million per year, which makes him the fourth-highest-paid receiver in the NFL. Despite being in his 30s, Evans is still considered one of the best pass catchers in the league. He holds several records for the Buccaneers, including the most receiving yards (11,680) and touchdown catches (94). Evans also boasts an impressive ten seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards in his decade-long career with the team.

The contract extension is significant because it allows Evans to play his entire career with the Buccaneers and provides the team with stability as they attempt to keep their roster intact. With several high-profile free agents, including Antoine Winfield Jr. and Baker Mayfield, the Buccaneers are looking to hold onto as many key players as possible. The retention of Evans could also be a factor in Mayfield’s decision to return to Tampa Bay in 2024.

Mike Evans Buccaneers
TAMPA, FLORIDA – JANUARY 16: Mike Evans #13 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers carries the ball against the Dallas Cowboys during the third quarter in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 16, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Mike Evans extension softens the free-agent wide receiver class

Taking a receiver like Evans off the open market is not great news for teams hoping to fill holes at the position this offseason. It is good news for the free-agent receivers, though; with Evans off the board, they’re asking prices will climb.

With Evans extended, Tee Higgins tagged by the Bengals, and Michael Pittman expected to remain in Indianapolis (whether via the franchise tag or an extension), the top end of the wide receiver class has taken a hit.

Guys like Marquise Brown, Calvin Ridley, and Darnell Mooney are now the cream of the crop in the wide receiver free-agent class. So, if you need a starting wide receiver this offseason, you should plan on filling that need in the NFL Draft in April.

Here are the top 10 wide receivers available after Evans, Higgins, and Pittman (via PFF):

  1. Marquise Brown
  2. Calvin Ridley
  3. Darnell Mooney
  4. Gabe Davis
  5. Odell Beckham Jr.
  6. Tyler Boyd
  7. Curtis Samuel
  8. Kendrick Bourne
  9. D.J. Chark
  10. Michael Thomas

NFL Scouting Combine Winners and Losers

The NFL Scouting Combine is in the books, and we’re one step closer to clarity in the 2024 NFL Draft. Let’s quickly discuss some winners and losers from this year’s annual event in Indianapolis.

Winners

  • WR Xavier Worthy, Texas: Worthy broke the combine record for the 40-yard dash in just 4.21 seconds, becoming the talk of the league. Worthy’s explosive speed distinguishes him as a big-play threat in the NFL. His 41-inch vertical leap was fourth among all wideouts. Despite questions about his lean build, teams gamble on game-breaking speed in the draft.
  • WR Brian Thomas Jr., LSU: Thomas was believed to be a first-rounder before the combine, now he’s the clear-cut WR4 in this class and likely to be selected in the top 20 picks if not earlier.
  • WR Rome Odunze, Washington: Odunze was stellar this weekend in every drill and test. He was 2A/2B for me (with Malik Nabers) heading into the weekend, and now I believe he’s the clear WR2 in this draft.
  • G/T Troy Fautanu, Washington: Fautanu stood out among several big blockers during the NFL combine stage, showcasing impressive agility and physical tools, including 34 ½-inch arms. While projected as a potential guard, Fautanu’s performance makes a strong case for him to remain in his natural position. He’s expected to be a mid-first-round pick in the upcoming draft.
  • CB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo: Mitchell has put to rest concerns about his ability to keep up with faster, stronger receivers. At the combine, he ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash, the second-fastest among his position and third overall. He had a smooth outing during drills and is expected to be selected in the teens by teams in need of a cornerback.
  • LB Payton Wilson, N.C. State: Wilson, a 6-4 233-pound linebacker, stood out with his impressive athleticism by running the fastest 40 in his group (4.43 seconds) and impressing during position drills. He is an accomplished player, having won the Bednarik Award, but his draft stock may depend on his medical outlook, as he has undergone 10 surgeries.
  • TE Theo Johnson, Penn State: Johnson, along with Kansas State’s Ben Sinnott, made a statement among tight ends in Indianapolis. At 6-6 and 259 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds and achieved a 39-inch vertical. This could help him become one of the first tight ends taken after Brock Bowers.
  • OG Cooper Beebe, Kansas State: The two-time Big 12 Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year proved his athleticism with a 1.75-second 10-yard split on his 5.03 40 at 322 pounds. He performed well in position drills, thanks to his experience at tackle, and his measurements are similar to those of Chris Snee, a former Pro Bowl lineman.
  • Losers

  • WR Troy Franklin, Oregon: Franklin struggled at the event, weighing in at a thin 176 pounds, down 11 from his listed weight. Despite his impressive 4.41-second 40-yard dash, he appeared inconsistent and less polished than his competition. This could hurt his chances on draft day.
  • WR Keon Coleman, Florida State: It seems that Coleman’s chances of being selected in the first round have decreased after his performance on Saturday. Despite weighing in at 213 pounds, his 40-yard dash time of 4.61 seconds did not impress the teams who were looking for a top-level prospect. However, his jumps were acceptable with a 38-inch vertical and 10-foot-7 broad. His straight-line strides on the field were impressive, but his cuts and transitions when running routes were not sudden.
  • CB Kalen King, Penn State: King had a great sophomore season in 2022, which led to some hype about him being a possible first-round pick. However, his follow-up season was shaky and raised concerns about his ability to keep up with receivers downfield. With his recent performance, it will be challenging for King to be selected on Day 2 of the draft.
  • S Kamren Kinchens, Miami (FL): Teams interested in Kinchens may rely on his tape due to his lackluster performance at Lucas Oil Stadium. He had a slow 40-yard dash of 4.65 seconds, tied for worst among all safeties, and struggled with backpedaling. Kinchens may be better suited for zone-heavy defenses.
  • OT Olu Fashanu, Penn State: Fashanu was hoping to secure a top-10 selection in the combine. Unfortunately, he injured his right thigh during his first 40-yard dash (5.11 seconds; 1.77 10-yard split). His hand measured 8.5 inches, smaller than expected for a tackle prospect. Despite this, he performed well in other tests (32-inch vertical, 9-foot-1 broad). However, with his injury, he will need to impress teams during his pro day and private workouts to secure a high draft position.
  • written by

    Patrick grew up in Chicago's Bridgeport and Garfield Ridge neighborhoods before moving to the Western Suburbs of Chicago before eventually relocating to the Las Vegas area with his family in 2023. He started with Bleacher Nation in 2021 and has spent time as a Staff Writer and on the Chicago Blackhawks beat. He is currently a writer and editor at Bleacher Nation covering the Chicago Bears and the NFL at large and the author of the Bleacher Nation Newsletter. Patrick is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

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