Bucs wrap up Evans, Brate to new contracts

by Gary Shelton on March 14, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Evans will be paid a lot more by the Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Evans will be paid a lot more by the Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

For the Tampa Bay Buc, the key to getting better is to re-sign the players they already had.

The Bucs, who haven't chased yet in free agency, have made millionaires of wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Cam Brate with new six-year contracts. That's continue a battle-plan that earlier featured new contracts for backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, cornerback Brent Grimes and backup linebacker Adarius Glanton..

Will it be enough to improve on last season's 5-11 record, one that was six games behind division co-winners New Orleans and Carolina? Without reinforcements, it will be difficult.

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Brate started off as an drafted free agent./CARMEN MANDATO

Brate started off as an undrafted free agent./CARMEN MANDATO

Still, it wouldn't have been a grand idea for the Bucs to allow Evans or Brate, who combined for 119 receptions and 1,592 yards last year.

"Our philosophy is that the stars on our team, the majority of them are going to come through the draft and then we’re going to lock them up," said general manager Jason Licht. "(We want) the ones that embody the qualities that I outlined before and these guys have them and we have several more. To get these guys done, including Brent Grimes, we’re very excited about him, and Adarius Glanton, it’s very important to go into the off-season and free agency just knowing that you have your guys on your team and then you can make moves from there. Which we will and we’ll supplement the roster from there."

Said coach Dirk Koetter: “Jason and I both believe that that’s how you build a successful franchise, by, in Mike’s case, you draft them and in Cam’s case, you develop them or they develop themselves. I want to reiterate that these guys are both great examples, they’re both being way too humble today. Mike mentioned that he couldn’t fail. Plenty of first-round draft picks fail, just look around the league. Mike has done it by how hard he’s worked and how well he’s played. Jason and Cam both told Cam’s story at the other end of the spectrum. He’s a guy that comes up undrafted. To grow your own guys, whether they were drafted in the first round or developed, to get them to their second contracts, that’s the best way to grow a franchise. These guys have both mentioned that we do have a really good young core and we are really looking forward to how the future looks with these guys.”

That philosophy has been tweaked since last year, when the  Bucs grabbed wide receiver DeSean Jackson early in free agency. Given how badly the Bucs need defensive ends and corners, some might have expected the Bucs to spend again. They have not.

“It’s just a testament to my hard work," said Evans, who caught 71 passes for 1,001 yards. "They showed me respect. As soon as I got here I worked hard. I’ve had some great teammates, I’ve been in an awesome position. It was hard for me to fail because I had so many great people around me. It’s how I am. I worked hard and it happened. I wasn’t thinking about a big contract or anything like that honestly. It happened and don’t get me wrong, I do love money- everybody does- but money doesn’t define me at all. I’m happy I got a big deal and set the bar high for a lot of guys coming up. But ultimately I just want to win games.”

Licht said both sides wanted this contract.

“The key to keeping him here is that both of us wanted this," Licht said. " Mike has never talked about his contract with me. I’ve mentioned it to him a few times throughout the year, ‘don’t worry Mike, we’re going to take care of you, everything is going to be good,’ and he really didn’t want to have anything to do with the conversation. He said that he was just worried about winning. We knew that Mike wanted to be here, but he had options. He could have played it out but he wanted to be here. When you see Mike perform the way he does, it’s a no brainier on our behalf. We’re just fortunate to have him and Cam locked up here.”

Brate's career began as an undrafted free agent. Last year, he caught 48 passes for 591 yards.

“Some guys, it depends on timing," Licht said. "With Cam, we were very fortunate to get him as a rookie tryout player for our minicamp. He was at two places before this. We took a chance on him, we had good reports on him. Our roster was filled at the time, 90 people, so we signed him as a tryout and it was after a day that we realized his size, that he was smart, worked hard and he caught the ball well. He kind of fell into our laps. Sometimes that happens.

"We decided to work with Cam, thought he was a good developmental guy. At one point we let him go for a week, which could have been the worst mistake I’ve ever made. But we were lucky enough to get him back the following week. Cam just worked extremely hard. He’s a different player than he was that day because now he’s one of the best tight ends in the league. But we were fortunate I guess. Last year, one of my favorite restaurants, 717, has a sea bass. I saw him in there and asked if he’d ever tried the sea bass. He said, ‘I can’t afford that.’ He can afford that now.”

When you consider the investment, and the signing of Jackson, and the drafting of O.J. Howard No. 1 last year, quarterback Jameis Winston should have plenty of targets.

He's a young quarterback. He's hungry and he has all the time in the world to keep getting better," Evans said. "We have to clean up some things as a team … We're a young team and I think this is our year. We're making good moves already, so I'm looking forward to this season."







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