Evans, in last year of five-year contract, receives offer from Bills
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- With most of the free-agent feeding frenzy complete, the Buffalo Bills appear to be zeroing in on signing one of their own free agents to-be.
Receiver Lee Evans confirmed Monday the Bills have made him a contract offer that would prevent the five-year veteran from becoming a free agent following the 2008 season. Evans, Buffalo's leading receiver the past two years, is currently in the final year of a five-year deal he signed after Buffalo selected him with the 13th overall pick in the 2004 draft.
Evans didn't talk about any details of the offer and the Bills didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Evans, who had minor surgery on his shoulder this offseason, will likely command a salary comparable to that of Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, a two-time Pro Bowler, inked a four-year, $40 million contract -- with $30 million guaranteed -- in March.
"Lee obviously is a core player in this organization and we want Lee to be here for many years to come," Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon said before last month's draft.
After enjoying a breakout year in 2006, when he set career-highs in receptions (82) and yards (1,292), Evans saw his production slip in 2007 when he led the Bills with just 55 catches for 849 yards and five touchdowns.
Buffalo's popgun offense certainly hasn't helped Evans. The Bills ranked 30th in the league for the second consecutive year this past season, and haven't finished better than 25th on offense since Evans arrived.
But with the addition of rookie wide receiver James Hardy, Buffalo's second round pick, and the experience gained by running back Marshawn Lynch and quarterback Trent Edwards as rookies last year, Evans is optimistic the unit has nowhere to go but up.
"It can't get too much worse," he said after the Bills' first voluntary organized practice Monday. "With the talent we have on offense, we certainly have the ability to be as good as we want to be. The biggest thing for us now is to gain confidence. If we can do that, we'll be a very good offensive team."
The 6-foot-5 Hardy is being counted on to help take some of the load off Evans, who struggled last year when the focus of defensive game plans revolved around him. The Bills are hoping Hardy's height advantage will help their passing game, particularly in the red zone, while Evans simply likes everything he sees in his new partner.
"I watched him play in college and he has tremendous ability," Evans said. "He does a lot of good things and a lot of things well. He uses his hands and he certainly uses his body. I'm certainly looking forward to him coming out here, stepping up, playing and making a lot of plays. I think he'll serve as a big compliment."
Hardy is also anticipating making a major contribution after finishing his collegiate career at Indiana with 36 touchdowns, including 16 this past season.
"I want to come out here and make big plays," he said. "It's a great opportunity."
Backup quarterback J.P. Losman practiced, but declined to talk to reporters afterwards. Losman's agent, Gary Wichard, told The Associated Press in January that his client preferred to be traded, but stressed that Losman would play out the final year of his contract if there's no deal made. ... Starting left tackle Jason Peters, punter Brian Moorman and rookie fullback Mike Viti were the only players who weren't at the workout. ... Hardy made a nifty reception over veteran cornerback Terrence McGee along the right sidelines on a deep throw by Edwards. ... Linebacker Paul Posluszny was back on the field after a broken forearm he sustained in Week 3 last year forced him to miss the rest of his rookie season.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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