Bucs focus on re-signing Mike Evans, Baker Mayfield

INDIANAPOLIS -- Keeping quarterback Baker Mayfield and retaining receiver Mike Evans are major priorities for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason.Mayfield was plucked off the scrap heap and put

Bucs focus on re-signing Mike Evans, Baker Mayfield

INDIANAPOLIS — Keeping quarterback Baker Mayfield and retaining receiver Mike Evans are major priorities for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason.

Mayfield was plucked off the scrap heap and put together his top all-around season, while Evans reached 1,000 receiving yards for the 10th straight season, a record at the outset of a career and just one off the overall consecutive seasons mark held by the legendary Jerry Rice.

Evans is a legend with the franchise while Mayfield stands to earn much, much more than the $4 million he received last season.

Negotiations are continuing with the soon-to-be free agent but the Buccaneers also plan to study quarterbacks this week at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“I know he wants to be a Buc. We want him to be a Buc, so that’s usually a good starting point,” Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht said Tuesday. “We want Baker back. Trust me, I can’t go two blocks in Tampa without somebody asking me that and you understand that and I totally understand it.

“He’s been great for our team. He’s been great for the organization and we would love to have Baker.”

Evans, 30, caught 13 touchdown passes last season to match Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins for the NFL lead. Evans had 79 catches for 1,255 yards.

“Mike did a heck of a job and he came to work every day,” Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles said. “He came to play every day, as you can see as a result from the statistics. And he’s been here for a decade and he’s done the same thing every year.

“He has been very consistent, very dynamic, yet he’s very humble off the field. But he’s a confident player. He’s one of my favorite players. I have a lot of respect for Mike and everything he does and he’s earned what he done.”

Evans just finished a five-year, $82.5 million contract with Tampa Bay.

But extension talks didn’t go well leading up to the 2023 season and the two sides didn’t reach a deal.

Licht declined to discuss where talks stand now.

“He’s an unprecedented player. We want him to be a Buc for life. We’re working towards that,” Licht said. “Obviously it takes two sides. I know he wants to be a Buc. We’ll probably have to strain a little bit (financially) but we’re working towards that right now.”

The Buccaneers also cleared close to $5 million in salary cap space by releasing outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett. The 31-year-old made the Pro Bowl twice in five seasons with Tampa Bay.

“Did not want to make that call,” Licht said. “At the same time I did — I wanted to give him some time here to look for another team if that’s what he wants to do. We can’t officially release him until the beginning of the league year, but he actually calmed me down on the call.”