TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Confident they already have their quarterback of the future, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers opted for Johnny Manziel’s favorite target rather than the Heisman Trophy winner in the NFL draft.
Texas A&M; receiver Mike Evans was the seventh overall pick Thursday night, becoming the latest piece new coach Lovie Smith has added to improve a low-scoring attack that ranked last in passing and total offense last season.
He had 69 catches for 1,394 yards and 12 TDs last year, averaging 20.2 yards per reception - tops in the Football Bowl Subdivision for a receiver with at least 45 catches.
“He’s a big guy who can run. Very physical, very tough and has phenomenal hands,” first-year general manager Jason Licht said of the 6-foot-5, 231-pound Evans, who’ll be paired in Tampa Bay’s offense with another big, strong receiver, Vincent Jackson, a five-time 1,000-yard receiver.
“We wanted to add a player who could give us another dimension than we had already,” Smith, known for building strong defenses, said. “I’ve been accused of wanting just defense, defense. I know it takes more than that to win football games.”
Smith replaced Greg Schiano as coach in January, inheriting a team that went 4-12 last season and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007. The Bucs signed seven projected new starters in free agency, including quarterback Josh McCown, and Evans will be expected to move into the lineup right away, too.
In selecting a receiver, Smith and Licht passed on an opportunity to upgrade in a couple of other critical areas - offensive guard and defensive tackle.
The new regime has been aggressive in overhauling the roster, releasing Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis and underperforming offensive linemen Davin Joseph and Donald Penn before bringing in McCown, defensive linemen Michael Johnson and Clinton McDonald, cornerback Alterraun Verner, center Evan Dietrich-Smith and tackle Anthony Collins in hoping of spurring a quick turnaround.
Second-year pro Mike Glennon started 13 games as a rookie for the Bucs and is McCown’s backup.
“Our quarterback position is as strong, to me, as any quarterback situation, I’ve had,” said Smith, who coached the Chicago Bears for nine seasons, leading them to one Super Bowl appearance.
“I like Josh McCown as our starter here. But I love Mike Glennon. Mike Glennon is our quarterback of the future,” Smith said, making that declaration for the first time. “So why would we want to add a third quarterback to the mix? We needed other positions.”
Barring a trade, Tampa Bay has one pick in every round, except the fourth, over the next two days.