Mike Evans a Potential Trade Target?
Rumor has it that Mike Evans could hit the trade market if a contract extension is not in place by the start of the regular season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hey everyone TC here,
If you are a new subscriber to the Cap & Trade Newsletter, welcome! This newsletter covers the NFL salary cap and news across the league with additional coverage of the Houston Texans. I have been covering the Houston Texans since 2012 and 2017 as credentialed media, and have been working at OverTheCap.com for the past 7 years. I hope you find this newsletter informative and digestible. I do subscribe to a number of paywall-type websites for data sourcing and aggregation, but always looking for more sources. While this newsletter remains free, you can activate a paid subscription to assist in making this newsletter even better:
Just a few days remain before real actual NFL football begins! A large portion of my subscriber base are fans of the Houston Texans who are excited to see this revamped roster and coaching staff propel the team back to relevance.
One position group that is lacking a true #1 player is the wide receiver group. Fans will get a heavy dose of third year Nico Collins, veteran Robert Woods, and veteran Noah Brown. The remaining depth consists of second year player John Metchie, who is still returning to football shape; and rookies Tank Dell and Xavier Hutchinson.
Nico Collins has all the makings of a solid player, most likely a #2 type player in the long term view…if he can remain healthy. A trait Collins have been unable to maintain. Collins has shown flashes in training camp this year of what he could become.
News broke this past week that veteran wide receiver Mike Evans had imposed a deadline with his current employer, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a deadline for contract negotiations that would be shut down come the start of the regular season. Given Tampa Bay’s rebuild situation many fans wonder if Mike Evans could become a trade candidate.
If Tampa Bay does not intend to re-sign Evans, a trade makes all the sense in the world for their organization. There are a few factors working against Tampa Bay in the veteran wide receiver trade market.
First is the lack of compensatory pick support. If Evans plays out the 2023 season with Tampa, that will be his 10th season of service. The compensatory draft pick caps out at a 5th round pick for players with 10 years of service time (quarterbacks are an exception).
Second is the lack of trade interest in veteran wide receivers. Arizona witnessed this first hand with the inability to trade Deandre Hopkins. Yes there were trades with Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill with 1st round (plus more) draft selections last offseason. If we are being honest, Mike Evans is not in the same tier as those two players and he is older at trade age compared to those two players. Evans turned 30 on August 21st.
Third is the explosion of rookie wide receivers. With the advent of 7on7 football and increased wide receiver work employed at the college level; teams are garnering immediate performance from rookie wide receivers. Justin Jefferson, Jamar Chase, Garrett Wilson, Ceedee Lamb, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jaylen Waddle, Chris Olave, etc.
Half of the top 10 wide fantasy projections are players on rookie contracts.
Despite all that, a segment of the Houston Texans fanbase are enamored with the idea of trading for Mike Evans. Would it be great? Sure! Does it make sense for the organization? Not really. Can the team make it work salary cap wise? Not really but could if they really had to. Let’s dive in.
Mike Evans Past Performance
Mike Evans has been an outstanding wide receiver in 9 seasons playing at least 13 games in each season posting a minimum of 1,006 receiving yards continually busting 100+ targets. Reports also state Evans is fantastic in the locker room and in the community. Oh and he grew up down the road in Galveston, TX.
My first question would be how long can Mike Evans maintain this type of production? Referencing StatHead, only 29 players have amassed 1,000+ receiving yards in a single season at the age of 30 or older dating back to 2011.
At age 31+ the number of players drops to 17 over the same time span. At 32+ the number drops to 11 players.
Another metric I wanted to reference was wide receiver efficiency with yards per route run and EPA per route run. Combined over the 2019 through 2022 seasons Evans was in the top performer of this data group.
The chart is interactive. Hover/Click on a data point for details.
Now the bad news…
Next thing to review is Mike Evans’ current contract and his market value.
Mike Evans is due a total cash outlay of $14.5 million for 2023. Tampa Bay has already paid the $1.5 million roster bonus. Any team acquiring Evans via trade would be responsible for the $13 million in base salary due.
Oddly enough there were offline reports back in February and early March that an extension between Evans and Tampa Bay was all but complete. No word on what happened or why it did not come to fruition.
My understanding Evans was looking to top Chris Godwin’s $20.0 million APY with little available detail beyond that. For reference Chris Godwin’s extension was valued at $20.0 million Average Per Year with $40.0 million fully guaranteed at signing.
As with any contract extension the team should be projecting the contract value based on performance projection (i.e. the future) not past performance. For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume Evans is agreeable to a 3 year extension worth $66.0 million with $45.0 million guaranteed.
How could the Texans make this work?
Before we get into draft capital for such a trade, we need to look at the Texans’ salary cap situation. Folks…I hate to tell you…it’s rough (for 2023). The injury pile-up within the offensive line group really put a damper on things related to the salary cap. An amount of injuries in such a short time period that even General Manager Nick Caserio had mincing words.
As of September 2, 2023 my numbers had the Houston Texans sitting at $2.621 million in cap space. The team is currently working on completing a few injury settlements, which will open up a few hundred thousand dollars in cap space.
So right off the top there is literally no way Houston could take on Mike Evan’s contract with a $13.0 million base salary & cap charge for 2023.
Fan Question: “But Cap..can’t they just re-work the deal to make it work?”
Yes and no. And this takes us down another rabbit hole.
Tampa Bay is likely looking for a 2nd round draft pick in return for Evans. For the sake of this exercise we will use the frame work of a 2023 3rd round & 2024 5th round draft selection in exchange for Evans.
If Houston had to take on Evans’ contract, un-touched, this would necessitate releasing a number of players and re-working (restructuring) numerous contracts.
Fan Question: “Can Tampa eat some money before the trade?”
This would mean an increase in draft capital in exchange for Tampa taking on $11.835 million in bonus money. Now the draft picks have become a 2023 2nd around & 2024 4th round pick (maybe more). This would leave Houston taking on Evan’s contract at a $1.165 million value. Hey the team has $2.621 million in cap space…so it works! (/sarcasm)
Now Evans has leverage over Houston with the trade and is ready to execute the extension. Even if Houston tacked on 2 void years, Evans’ new salary cap number would balloon to a minimum of $5.565 million using the above contract extension framework.
Uh-oh…the salary cap is real!
Now the team needs to go back and re-work contracts to find cap savings to accommodate this new Evans contract. Reminder the team also needs $3-4.5 million just to cover in-season operations.
Based on my Ti-85 calculator we need to find $7.4 million in cap savings.
Now I’m not going to say this is impossible, but it certainly is not advisable. Just a quick run through of available contracts this would mean extending (with void years) Jerry Hughes, Ka’imi Fairbairn, Cam Johnston, Steven Nelson, Josh Jones, Case Keenum, Hassan Ridgeway, and Jimmie Ward just to start. Essentially shifting cap dollars from 2023 to 2024. And this still doesn’t leave the team enough cap dollars for in-season operations. This also assumes each player would agree to such a re-negotiation. I player could derail the who plan.
Fan Question: “Can the two teams do a sign and trade?”
The NFL management council would not allow this to occur. As precedent a few years ago New Orleans attempted a similar path with Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney was a free agent at the time, and New Orleans had worked a trade package with another team. The other team would sign Clowney, take on the signing bonus, and then trade Clowney to New Orleans for draft capital. The league office shut it down.
No Need For This
Houston would be better off avoiding this entire situation. For multiple reasons:
Houston really needs to see what they have in this year wide receiver Nico Collins. Bringing in Mike Evans would all but eliminate Nico Collins’ snap counts.
Initial accounts from draft Twitter is the 2024 wide receiver class is again stacked. Houston could use the Cleveland 1st round pick for a young wide receiver.
Nick Caserio is not a fan of paying big money for veteran wide receivers. Keep in mind he just got burnt by Brandin Cooks shortly after negotiating a 2 year $36.0 million contract extension.
The salary cap gymnastics required would disrupt the established roster.
Back to Mike Evans’ performance. Does it make good organization sense, at this stage of their rebuild, to pay a wide receiver $22 million a year for a 800/80/4 receiver stat line? On top of having to restructure multiple contracts just to facilitate the trade? Maybe Evans can put together one more 1,000 yard season but the expected performance drop off is approaching quickly.
If we extrapolate Nico Collins’ 2022 season over 17 games, he would have posted a 815/62/4 receiver stat line.
My opinion is to avoid attempting to trade for Mike Evans. Continue with the group the team has, and look for another player in the 2024 draft.
Cap & Trade is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.