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New contract moves Mike Evans closer to goal of playing entire career with Buccaneers

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Mike Evans wants to play his entire career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“When you play for one team for so long, you obviously think about what it would be like playing somewhere else,” Evans said Friday after finalizing a two-year, $52 million contract to remain with the franchise that selected seventh overall in the 2014 NFL draft.

“I have a lot of friends on other teams, and it was a cool dream,” said the only player in league history to begin a career with 10 consecutive seasons with 1,000-plus yards receiving. “But Tampa is my home, and it’s where I’ve always wanted to be.”

Retaining the 30-year-old who tied Tyreek Hill for the league lead in touchdown catches (13) last season was one of general manager Jason Licht’s top priorities this offseason.

Now, the Bucs look to re-sign quarterback Baker Mayfield, who had the best season of his career in helping Tampa Bay win its third straight NFC South title after joining the team on a one-year deal last winter.

“I feel like we can build on what we did last year. Hopefully we get him back,” said Evans, who finished with 79 receptions for 1,255 yards in 2023. “I trust Jason and the front office, no matter what happens.”

In addition to throwing for a career-best 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns, Mayfield led the Bucs to an NFC wild-card win over Philadelphia before losing to the Detroit Lions in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Evans’ streak of 10 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in the second-longest in NFL history behind Jerry Rice’s 11. He’s tied with another Hall of Famer, Randy Moss, for the second-most in a career behind Rice’s 14.

Besides being Tampa Bay’s career leader in receptions (762), receiving yards (11,680) and touchdowns (94), Evans is one of just five players in league history who’ve had 1,000-plus yards receiving and 10 or more TD catches in the same season at least five times.

The others are Rice (nine) and Moss, Marvin Harrison and Terrell Owens (eight each).

Licht, understandably, was relieved to get a deal done before Evans had an opportunity to test his worth in free agency.

The 6-foot-5, 231-pound receiver out of Texas A&M was Licht’s first draft pick as a rookie GM with the Bucs in 2014.

“A lot of things I did wrong that first year. There’s one thing I did right, and it was Mike,” Licht said. “He’s the epitome of what you want in a draft pick. … He means so much to this community and fan base.”

Evans, who in part attributes his sustained growth and consistency to a rigorous offseason training routine, feels there’s still a lot more he can accomplish.

“There’s a lot more for me to chase. … I’ve been in great shape the last five, six years of my career, but I can take it to a new level,” said Evans, who won a Super Bowl with Tom Brady at quarterback four seasons ago.

Tampa Bay is riding a club-record streak of four consecutive postseason appearances after failing to earn playoff berths in Evans’ first six years in the league.

“It's very rare to stay with one team for the entirety of your career. That's something that was a goal of mine," the receiver said. “This is one step closer to one of my biggest goals.”

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl