Every time Lee Evans was asked about the progress of negotiations on a contract extension over the past few months Buffalo's top wideout always stated things were moving in the right direction. Those negotiations finally reached a resolution on Thursday when the Bills locked up their top receiver to a multi-year agreement.
"I'm thrilled," Evans told Buffalobills.com. "It all just kind of happens at one time. I'm thrilled about it. It's a great day. Working with these guys over a long period of time has been tough, but the communication has been there and we finally got it done. So I couldn't be happier."
Many of final language details of the extension were hammered out this past weekend when Bills Chief Operating Officer Russ Brandon and Senior Vice President of Football Administration Jim Overdorf met face to face with Evans' St. Louis-based agent Ben Dogra.
"It was a matter of making sure both sides were happy with what was going on," said Evans. "We talked in St. Louis when we were out there. Ben talked to Russ (Brandon) and Jim (Overdorf) and Mr. Wilson and we got it all straightened out. We just got it done and made it work."
The Evans camp and the Bills had been working on the extension for almost the entire offseason, which admittedly was anything but easy. With some NFL clubs overpaying for free agent receivers this past spring (e.g. Bernard Berrian) and elite wideouts signing new deals like New England's Randy Moss and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald there was a wide range of contracts that re-shaped the receiver market.
Regardless of the state of the receiver market the Bills knew all along they had to keep their top receiver in the fold and Evans wanted to stay in Buffalo long term.
No doubt helping Evans in his decision to commit to the team that drafted him 13th overall in 2004 was a newly developed sense of on field comfort with Trent Edwards and faith in new offensive coordinator Turk Schonert.
"I think it was a big factor," Evans said. "When you look at how our offense has grown and matured and has seen its share of the bumps as well, but when you see a lot of hard work and dedication paying off I think that plays into this in a big way. I'm happy for myself. I'm happy for this organization and I want to thank Mr. Wilson for sticking with me."
Evans is off to the best start in his five-year career through the first four games with 14 catches for 332 yards and a touchdown. He's currently tied for first in the league with six receptions of 25 yards or more, and is second in the NFL is average yards per catch with 23.7.
He already ranks in the top five on the club's all-time list for career 100-yard receiving games (10) and receiving touchdowns (30).
It's partly why the offensive co-captain is one of the most respected players in Buffalo's locker room. Evans was widely congratulated by his teammates following Thursday's practice.
"They were happy for me," said Evans. "Guys just came up and congratulated me and told me it was well deserved and well earned. It's a tremendous feeling that I have for them and it's a sign of respect and they couldn't have been happier for me."
Just last week Buffalo's top wideout tied the team record for being the fastest receiver to reach 4,000 career receiving yards with Frank Lewis eclipsing the yardage mark in just 68 games.
Evans has accomplished all this despite the fact that Buffalo's offense has endured constant change. In his time with Buffalo the club has had four different quarterbacks and three different offensive coordinators.
But now with a rapidly ascending quarterback in Trent Edwards and offensive stability with coordinator Turk Schonert, all the pieces could be falling into place as Evans enters the prime of his career.
The Bills have been criticized over the past few years for letting some of their top talent escape to free agency and sign lucrative contracts, but the Bills have now re-signed more than 10 impact players in the Dick Jauron era. Evans joins Brad Butler, Ryan Denney, Chris Kelsay, Rian Lindell, Terrence McGee, Brian Moorman, Roscoe Parrish, Jason Peters, Josh Reed, Aaron Schobel and Kyle Williams.
That was also a factor in Evans feeling comfortable with bypassing free agency and re-upping with Buffalo.
"I think that's what you want to see as you move forward, a good core group of guys helping this team move forward," said Evans. "I think that's what we're building now."