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Saints' Jahri Evans on pay cut: It worked out in the end

Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans was willing to take a pay cut to remain in New Orleans. Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints guard Jahri Evans has been around long enough to understand the business side of the NFL, where even six Pro Bowls don't make you immune to trade talks or a demand for a pay cut.

Evans, 31, reworked his contract this offseason to ensure he would stay with the Saints for a 10th season while salary-cap cuts were being made all around him. He accepted a small pay cut in 2015, a big pay cut in 2016 and added an additional year to the deal in 2017.

"It worked out in the end. You know, it's part of the business, obviously. And I'm glad to be here," said Evans, who was reportedly discussed in trade talks with the Buffalo Bills -- though it's unclear how close that came to fruition.

Evans said he "wasn't really in the loop" with any possible trade talks. But he was well aware the Saints were making some tough cuts and trades, both because they were millions over the salary cap and because they wanted to remake the roster in the wake of a disappointing 7-9 season.

One of those moves sent fellow Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs to the Kansas City Chiefs after Grubbs reportedly balked at a pay cut.

Evans said the "uncertainty" was tough. But he said coach Sean Payton, "communicated with me frequently."

"So that was very great, and I was pleased with that," said Evans, who added, "I still had two years under contract, so I never saw myself not being here."

Evans ultimately agreed to a small decrease from $7.5 million in salary and bonuses in 2015 to $7.1 million, followed by a drop from $8.7 million to $4.9 million in 2016. The payoff for him was that $9.5 million of that is guaranteed over the next two years, including a $5.4 million signing bonus. He's scheduled to earn another $6 million, non-guaranteed, in 2017.

Receiver Marques Colston -- another all-time great Saints player who joined the Saints in the same 2006 draft class as Evans -- talked recently about making a similar decision to stay in New Orleans. Linebacker David Hawthorne and defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley also agreed to pay cuts.

But not everyone chose the same route. Linebacker Curtis Lofton and Grubbs reportedly turned down pay cuts, and both are gone.

Evans said he never felt like it was an "either-or" situation between him and Grubbs, though he recognized that the Saints would probably do something at the guard position because of how much money they had invested there.

"I don't think it was [a matter of] who they got the best offer for, because I have accolades that Ben doesn't. It was just about what they wanted to do," Evans said. "And it wasn't about effort or play, it was just about business and finances."

Evans showed some inconsistency last year, especially in pass protection, with a handful of uneven performances against Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Atlanta. He was credited with five or six sacks allowed, depending on the stat service.

But Evans remained a standout run blocker for much of the season, which was a big reason why the Saints were thriving in that area for the first three months (they ranked eighth in the NFL at 126.3 rushing yards per game through Week 13).

Evans had wrist surgery after the season to relieve a nagging issue, but it never limited his snaps during the year.

Evans said it can be a little tough to compare where he sees himself versus where the team might see him going forward, "because I've lived it."

"But you watch the film, and you see those things … the eye in the sky doesn't lie," Evans said of the inconsistencies that popped up.

"I feel like I had a good season. You tell us we're 50 yards away from 5,000 passing and averaging 4.5 on the ground, I mean, you tell me," said Evans, who said the area that nagged him most was "not finishing out" the close games early in the year. "So I feel like we had a good season, we just fell short in a couple areas that we haven't struggled with in the past."