Speculation on Lee Evans' departure from the Buffalo Bills escalated Thursday as the team prepared for its preseason opener Saturday in Chicago.
The Bills are open to dealing Evans, a first-round pick in 2004, a team source told The Buffalo News. During a radio interview Thursday, Bills General Manager Buddy Nix didn't deny that the veteran wide receiver is on the market. Evans has downplayed the possibility of a trade, but a source close to Evans told The News that he's informed teammates that he believes he's going to be dealt.
"Like everything else, it's all speculation," Nix said during the Shredd and Ragan Show on 103.3 FM The Edge. "Lee is a Bill -- we're counting on Lee to be here. You never know what will happen on any guys. I guess I'll say that nobody is untouchable, starting wherever you want to start. If it upgrades us and makes us a better team then we'd look into doing it."
Rumors involving Evans' future with the Bills came into question when the team signed free agent receiver Craig "Buster" Davis. He was reunited with Nix, who played a role in the San Diego Chargers drafting Davis in 2007. The emergence of Stevie Johnson as a deep threat is also playing a role as the Bills want to re-sign the fourth-year receiver to a deal similar to the one signed by Evans, a source said. Evans is working under a four-year, $37.2 million deal that runs through next season; he will be paid $3.2 million this year.
The Bills' depth chart at wide receiver includes Evans, Johnson, Davis, Roscoe Parrish, Brad Smith, David Nelson, Donald Jones, Naaman Roosevelt, Marcus Easley, Felton Huggins, Paul Hubbard and Kamar Aiken. They all can't make the roster and it appears the team may start chopping from the top.
Trade rumors involving Evans began to heat up again Thursday after ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted the Bills are open to trading the veteran wideout and that he could be dealt within the next 48 hours. Then on NFL Countdown on Thursday night, Schefter said the Bills have decided to deal Evans, probably in exchange for a late-round pick.
Arizona and Baltimore have reportedly expressed interest.
In seven seasons, Evans has 377 receptions for 5,934 yards and 43 touchdowns but is coming off the worst year of his career. In 13 games last season, Evans finished with just 37 receptions for 578 yards and four TDs, both career lows. In 2009, in 16 games, he was only slightly better with 44 catches for 612 yards and seven touchdowns.
"That is something that is out of my control," Evans said earlier this week about the rumors. "There are always rumors like that out there so we will have to just see what happens. It's hard for me to comment on it now. It's just one of those things that you have to find out how much substance is behind it and see what happens."
During training camp coach Chan Gailey has often spoke of trying to find more ways to get Evans the ball.
"Lee has made a bunch of big plays here through the years and he still made some plays for us last year," Gailey said. "Like I said earlier, we have to do a better job of making him more affective in the short and intermediate area."