Evans on the way out?
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • August 08, 2011 @ 10:55am
Lee Evans has underachieved as a Bill. Drafted as a deep threat out of Wisconsin, Evans has been a victim of circumstances just as much as he’s failed to improve as an individual. Long touted as the Bills’ #1 receiver, he hasn’t posted statistics worthy of such a title since 2006—82 catches, 1,292 yards and 8 touchdowns. Heading into 2011, Evans is coming off his worst year as a pro, hauling in a career-low 37 passes, 578 yards and 4 TDs, and former 7th round pick Stevie Johnson leapfrogged him as Buffalo’s top outside threat.
The Bills have stockpiled receivers—most recently San Diego first round draft bust Craig “Buster” Davis—to challenge Evans and to prepare for the future. It’s not Sam Aiken, Avion Black and Justin Jenkins hanging out on the wide receiver depth chart; five other Bills receivers—all but Roscoe Parrish were 25 years old or younger—had some success with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm last year, and 12 are chomping at the bit in training camp for a roster slot.
The National Football Post’s Dan Pompei suggests that Evans’ tenure with the Bills may be coming to a close, and he cites the Ravens as an interested suitor. After losing Derrick Mason to the Jets this weekend, Baltimore is relying heavily on two rookies—Tandon Doss and Torrey Smith—opposite Anquan Boldin.
Browsing through the footballsfuture.com Baltimore message board, several Ravens fans are under the impression that Evans will be cut. With Buffalo well under the cap and the salary floor not kicking in until 2013, there’s really no reason for the Bills to dump the former first rounder without anything in return. Even though he’s 30 years old, Evans can certainly still be productive as a #2 receiver for a strong-armed quarterback. Through ESPN reporter Mike Sando’s research of wide receiver value on the trade market, we estimate that Evans’ value is a third or fourth round pick.
A myriad of excuses has followed Evans during his decline in production: poor quarterback play, no complementary receivers, regular double coverage, playing from behind often, the offensive line failing to provide the QB enough time to connect with a deep route, and so on.
The blame doesn’t fall fully on others, however—a “complete” receiver like Stevie Johnson mustered numbers even better than Evans’ 2006 output with all of the above factors in play. Evans has always been reluctant to run routes over the middle; Chan Gailey has been adamant that Lee become more of a complete receiver by embracing the underneath patterns and putting his body in danger for the good of the team. The Bills’ wide-out caused a stir during the Edwards vs. Losman quarterback battle by outspokenly supporting Losman to the media—and dividing the Bills locker room even further.
Trading away Evans would be a significant loss for Buffalo, but with wide receiver as the deepest and most talented position on the team, the Bills would recover quickly. If that extra roster spot allows Buffalo the chance to work with a project like Michael Jasper or Joshua Nesbitt, then it’s an acceptable move. There’s no question that Buffalo is in the rebuilding phase, and an aging Evans doesn’t fit into the team’s long-range plans.