Mike Evans news means Patriots lose out on more than just the receiver

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions
NFC Divisional Playoffs - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Detroit Lions / Nic Antaya/GettyImages

One of the top free agency targets for the Patriots this offseason was going to be Mike Evans, the longtime Buccaneer who has already put together a Hall of Fame worthy career. Because they have the money to spend and need a significant upgrade on their offense, Evans felt like the guy to pursue when free agency opened up next week.

Although actually signing him felt like a long shot, especially after the desires for his next team were revealed, this offseason seemed like the best shot the Patriots would have to sign a player of his caliber.

But that changed early Monday morning when it was announced Evans and Tampa Bay had reached an agreement to keep him with the team for another two years. He becomes one of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL and will stay with the team he's hoped to retire with.

The news wasn't exactly shocking since most insiders believed the Bucs would do all they could to keep Evans on the team. But it's more of the underlying reason for his new contract that seems to hint at something bigger.

Evans made it clear he wanted to play for a good quarterback and even shared he enjoyed working with Baker Mayfield. He reportedly voiced his opinion on the team re-signing the quarterback beyond the 2023 season, and now that he has decided to stay with the Bucs, it implies Mayfield is likely staying in Florida as well.

If that's the case, the Patriots miss out on another veteran free agent with ties to Alex Van Pelt to sign this year, despite reports indicating they were a team in contention for Mayfield just this past weekend during the Combine.

Plans appear to have changed with Evans' signing, and although nothing has been said about the quarterback's status, it's fair to assume a deal will inevitably be announced in short order.

It's potentially a big hit to the Patriots' plans if they were invested in Mayfield running the offense in 2024 and beyond. And it now limits their options at the position if they want to definitively go the veteran route for a rookie to learn from.

It leaves just Kirk Cousins and Ryan Tannehill as the leading available quarterbacks, which isn't all that thrilling. But maybe they'll continue to pursue others instead, like their rumored interest in Jacoby Brissett and Joe Flacco. We'll have to wait and see.

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