March 14, 2012
No stopping BucsTampa Bay getting better fast
By Bill Lankhof, QMI Agency
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may just have gone from laughing stock to laughing all the way to the Super Bowl.
It took them less than 48 hours into free agency to sign the two most-coveted players on the offensive side of the football not named Peyton.
The Bucs spent $140.5 million but it landed them the crown jewel of receivers in Vincent Jackson, and All-Pro Carl Nicks, who becomes the highest paid guard in the NFL. Defensively, they anchored a shaky secondary, signing cornerback Eric Wright from Detroit.
“We’re not the big three like the Miami Heat, but we’re doing big things here,” Nicks said, as the Bucs transformed themselves from a team that could do no right in a dismal 4-12 season, to one that could do no wrong. “I can’t wait to coach these guys, I’m thrilled,” said Greg Schiano, who left Rutgers to take over as head coach with the Bucs. “When I look at these three guys, I think they’re a perfect fit ... we’re gonna punish people and run the ball.”
That run-first philosophy doesn’t bother Jackson. “I know they have the tools here to win,” he said Wednesday at a news conference to introduce the new faces of the franchise. “This is gonna be a dynamic offence, we’re gonna pound the ball ... and every now and then go over the top.”
Jackson and Nicks can help Josh Freeman develop from a maddeningly inconsistent quarterback in his second year as the full-time starter, into a franchise player. “Josh is hungry to get better. He’s gonna be one of the top quarterbacks of this league,” Jackson predicted.
Nicks’ signing is not the most glamorous, but it might just be the most important.
His $47.5-million deal averages to $9.5 million a season, eclipsing the league record set by Logan Mankins when he signed for $8.5 million a season with New England in 2011.
Nicks just might be worth it.
He is one of the primary reasons Drew Brees had so much time, and was so effective, in the Saints’ pass-happy offence. He’ll provide Freeman security in the pocket for the next five years, along with Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah, that he has never yet enjoyed.
Jackson gives the Bucs an elite deep threat to pair with Mike Williams — which can only help a quarterback who threw the second-most interceptions (22) in the NFL in 2011. Jackson has always been a big-play threat, teaming with Philip Rivers in San Diego.
If Jackson can do for Freeman what he did for Rivers, the Bucs won’t be complaining. He had more than 1,000 yards in three of the past four seasons, scoring 28 touchdowns.
It is the kind of production that the Bucs rarely saw in an offence that finished 21st in the league in yards per game and 27th in scoring. Now they have more weapons.
And, the Bucs aren’t done yet in free agency or next month’s draft. Nicks’ signing left no room for centre Jeff Faine, who was released Wednesday night, bumping the Bucs’ cap space back to about $25 million. They’re also reported to be trying
to trade tight end Kellen Winslow, which would free up another $6.5 million, although John Carlson’s signing with the Vikings might change that idea.
Tampa also has had discussions about Giants’ quarterback and former Houston starter David Carr.
DeSean Jackson got security. It just came from an unexpected source. The Eagles, upset with Jackson’s nonchalant approach last season, put aside any differences and signed him to a five-year, $47-million deal ... The Chiefs signed running back Peyton Hillis. With Jamaal Charles returning from a torn ACL, it sets up a bash-and-dash backfield as K.C. returns to a run-first offence ... Bears’ coach Lovie Smith believes tight end Kellen Davis has a high upside. So, Davis resigned for two years ... The Giants needed a tight end after losing Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard to torn ACLs in the Super Bowl and signed Martellus Bennett ... The Bengals suffered two big losses with New England taking versatile defensive end/tackle Jon Fanene, who had a career high 6.5 sacks last season, and the Browns signing defensive end Frostee Rucker. Cincy is talking to running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis ... Jags signed Laurent Robinson, who had a breakout year with 54 catches and 858 yards filling in for Cowboys’ regulars Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Then they signed quarterback Chad Henne to throw him the ball and scare Blaine Gabbert ... Derek Anderson squeezed another one-year deal out of Carolina as backup to Cam Newton. If all goes as planned he won’t call a snap ... Minnesota went hard after John Carlson, signing him to a five-year, $25-million deal. That means Visanthe Shiancoe won’t be back and he’s talking to Seattle ... The Bears’ signed two quarterbacks. Jason Campbell to back up Jay Cutler and Josh McCown to be the guy getting all the TV face-time flashing signals from the sideline ... Arizona signed offensive lineman Adam Snyder, formerly of division-rival 49ers ... Paul Soliai got a two-year, $12- million deal to stay in Miami ... Chargers believe Jared Gaither can be better than the departed Marcus McNeill, signing him for four years; then took Jarett Johnson away from the Ravens ... The Colts swapped sixth-round picks with the Eagles to get Winston Justice, who will fill Indianapolis’ trouble spot at right tackle. They signed defensive end Cory Redding, another sign Dwight Freeney is on the trading block ... Miami got defensive back Richard Marshall ... Norv Turner is looking at Robert Meachem to be Philip Rivers’ No. 1 receiver. Chargers are reported close to getting Eddie Royal ... The Saints appear intent on dumping linebacker Jonathan Vilma. They’ve got a meeting Friday with run-stopper David Hawthorne. Vilma is due a $5.4 million 2012 salary and there are whispers management isn’t happy with his production.