Last summer, Jordan Evans summed up his life, and his career as a linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals in a few short words.
“It is about taking steps,” Evans said. “Hopefully the steps are in the right direction. You can’t expect anything, but you can only hope for it.”
A sixth-round selection of the Bengals in the 2017 NFL Draft, Evans’ career so far has been all about hope—hoping for a chance to contribute, hoping for a chance to start.
Evans is set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time this month. He’s been a mainstay on special teams since he came into the league, and saw his most action on defense in 2018, when he 60 tackles, 39 solos, 1.5 sacks, three passes defensed and an interception.
His role on the defense was reduced in 2019 with the arrival of Germaine Pratt. Nevertheless, Evans played in all 16 games in 2019, and was in on 68.6 percent of special teams snaps (second on team) while recording six special teams tackles (tied for third) .
Evans’ status became even more tenuous after Cincinnati selected the linebacking trio of Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaither and Markus Bailey in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Even so, he did indeed continue to make “steps in the right direction.” Despite his greatly-reduced role on the defense, Evans came up with a career-best two sacks and picked up the second interception of his career. He did this despite only playing a career-low 63 defensive snaps for the season.
The highlight plays on defense were nice, but Evans continued to be a force on special teams, particularly in kick coverage. His value there is so apparent that special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Darrin Simmons found himself lobbying for Evans’ return.
“We have quite a few unrestricted free agents that we have to get back that are critical, critical parts to what we do here and I think critical parts to our team,” Simmons said.
There is no doubt that Evans’ presence on the sidelines and on special teams makes the Bengals a better team. But only time will tell whether Cincinnati will be able to bring him back for a fifth season.