Falcons Had Free Agency Interest in Bucs' Mike Evans, Other Star WRs

Atlanta Falcons receivers coach Ike Hilliard was intrigued by several big-name receivers in free agency.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans drew brief offseason interest from the Atlanta Falcons.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans drew brief offseason interest from the Atlanta Falcons. / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons added several new pieces to their receivers room this spring, headlined by free agent signees Darnell Mooney and Ray-Ray McCloud and trade acquisition Rondale Moore.

But prior to giving Mooney a three-year, $39 million deal during the first week of free agency, Atlanta also had internal interest in other big-name pass catchers.

Falcons head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Terry Fontenot tasked their assistant coaches with watching film of free agents and finding players who fit offensive coordinator Zac Robinson's vision.

Asked on Wednesday which players he presented to Fontenot and staff, Falcons receivers coach Ike Hilliard shared he approached the front office with a group of prominent names, including Mooney and a handful of others who ultimately didn't sign with Atlanta.

"We had some free agents - they were the same free agents everybody was after," Hilliard told SI's AllFalcons on Wednesday. "There's a Hollywood Brown, there's a Tyler Boyd, there's a Darnell Mooney; we can go on and on. Mike Evans was out there for a second. There are plenty of guys I can bring up."

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Brown signed a one-year deal worth up to $11 million with the Kansas City Chiefs, though he agreed to the deal two days after Mooney and the Falcons found common ground on terms.

The wait was much longer for Boyd, who joined the Tennessee Titans on a one-year, $4.5 million contract. The two sides reached agreement on May 7, nearly two months after free agency opened.

Evans, conversely, never hit the market. The week before free agency, he agreed to a two-year, $52 million contract with $35 million guaranteed to remain with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who he's played for the entirety of his decade-long professional career.

The Falcons landed McCloud, who doubles as a return specialist, on a two-year contract worth up to $6 million, while Moore's cap number is just $1.6 million as he enters the final season of his rookie deal.

In essence, Atlanta secured its prized possession in Mooney, and when coupled with giving quarterback Kirk Cousins a four-year deal with $100-million guaranteed, opted to allocate its resources elsewhere.

Still, the Dirty Birds accomplished perhaps their biggest goal on the perimeter.

When Hilliard accepted the job to become the Falcons' receivers coach Feb. 1, he did so knowing his room needed more explosiveness around budding star Drake London.

A few weeks later, he gave Fontenot several players who fit the bill. Now, Atlanta's new-look receivers room is littered with speed and proven production - and could've had even more had a few other situations ended differently.

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Daniel Flick


Daniel Flick is an accredited NFL writer for Sports Illustrated's FanNation. Daniel has provided boots-on-ground coverage at the NFL Combine and from the Atlanta Falcons' headquarters, among other destinations, and contributed to the annual Lindy's Sports Magazine ahead of the 2023 offseason. Daniel is a co-host on the 404TheFalcon podcast and previously wrote for the Around the Block Network and Georgia Sports Hospitality Media.