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Report: 5-time Pro Bowl WR likely to become a free agent

An NFL logo on the field

Feb 1, 2022; Inglewood, CA, USA; The NFL shield logo is seen at midfield at SoFi Stadium. Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals will be played on Feb. 13, 2022. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the top wide receivers in football could be headed for free agency next month.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been hoping to sign Mike Evans to a long-term extension, but Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report said on Monday that the two sides “remain far apart.” Monday marked the deadline for the Bucs to sign Evans to an extension to avoid $7.4 million in dead salary cap money kicking in for 2024.

Schultz added that Tampa Bay will continue to work toward a deal, but that Evans appears likely to become a free agent.

While the Buccaneers have the option of using the franchise on Evans, they are unlikely to go that route because of the veteran’s 2023 salary cap hit. The value of the franchise tag in most cases is determined by the average of the top-five players at the position. That figure is $21.6 million for wide receivers this offseason. Since Evans’ salary cap hit from 2023 is higher than that, Evans’ franchise tag figure is calculated by taking 120 percent of his previous year’s salary cup number, which works out to $28.4 million.

If Evans does become a free agent, there will be plenty of interest in him. The 30-year-old has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in each of his 10 NFL seasons and has 94 career touchdowns.

The Buccaneers are also trying to re-sign Baker Mayfield, and reports have indicated that they will not use the franchise tag on him, either. It is unclear how Mayfield would feel about returning to the Bucs if the team cannot assure him that his top wide receiver will be back.

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