Jaguars may soon need to scratch this receiver's name off their wish list

• The Jaguars may need help at WR but there's a chance Mike Evan won't be an option in free agency.
Dec 24, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrates the
Dec 24, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrates the / Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars may need to bolster their wide receiver corps this offseason. Calvin Ridley is set to hit the open market and Zay Jones could be a cap casualty. If either one leaves, the Jags could turn to free agency for help at the position. The trouble is that they won't have many appealing options, especially if Mike Evans returns to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which is a realistic possibility based on a recent report.

The Bucs voided Evans' contract for 2024, leaving around $12 million in dead money. This made it look as if they were ready to let him walk but they're making a strong effort to retain him, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. If the former Texas A&M Aggie does return to Tampa Bay, the Jaguars won't have too many options to replace Calvin Ridley. Heck, Ridley would probably be the top wideout available. That should incentivize them to extend him.

If the Buccaneers aren't able to reach an agreement with Evans before free agency starts, they'll most likely use the franchise tag to prevent the five-time Pro Bowl nod from hitting the open market. While the tag would give them more time to work out a deal, it would also be cheaper than giving him an extension. He's expected to get a contract that pays him an average of $23 million per year. Meanwhile, the tag will be $21.8 million.

Then again, Tampa Bay should be incentivized to give Evans a long-term deal, as they could then give him a signing bonus and spread the cap hit to future years. But regardless of the route the Buccaneers take, it seems like he won't hit the open market.

Evans, a first-round pick in 2014, is coming off a banner year, hauling in 79 receptions for 1,255 years with 13 touchdowns. He's not the only player the Bucs may want to retain. Baker Mayfield also had a huge comeback season, and he will be a hot commodity for teams in need of a starting quarterback if he hits the open market.

The Jaguars could've used Mike Evans but their focus should be on Calvin Ridley

As great as Mike Evans is, he's a long shot to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even if he hits the open market, there will be other clubs who will make an aggressive effort to land him. When you take into account that the Jags have other needs and a finite amount of cap space, they would've had a hard time locking Evans up. Working in their favor is that they already have a stud receiver in place, Calvin Ridley.

Ridley showed in 2023 that he's still the same player he was early in his career, catching 76 receptions for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns. Not bad for a player who spent more than a year away from football. Now, he's scheduled to become a free agent, and the Jaguars' brass has made it clear that they want him back. Similarly, Trevor Lawrence has vouched for his return.

The issue is that Jacksonville agreed when they traded for Ridley to give the Atlanta Falcons a second-round pick if they re-signed him. However, it will only be a third-round selection in he walks or if they use the franchise. The trouble with the first scenario is that letting him become a free agent is risky, as other teams could court him. On the other hand, tagging him would make sense but there's a strong chance outside linebacker Josh Allen will get it.

Having said that, the Jaguars should be incentivized to find a way to keep Ridley. Besides being a WR1, the team's brass can turn their attention to other position needs if they bring him back. Conversely, letting him leave would create a need at receiver, so they're better off retaining him, even if it means parting ways with a second-round pick.

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