Chris Conte Reportedly Re-Signs with Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Scott PolacekFeatured Columnist

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 1: Cornerback Chris Conte #23 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers works out during the first day of Training Camp at the University of South Florida on August 1, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Safety Chris Conte was a solid player at the back end of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary last season, and the team reportedly came to an agreement to bring him back for next year.

Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune was first to report the deal, citing a league source. Jenna Laine of Sports Talk 1040 confirmed the agreement.

On Feb. 21, Scott Reynolds of Pewter Report reported "the Bucs' level of interest of course will depend on Conte's contract demands," but he did add the team will speak with the safety about returning. Reynolds noted Conte signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million with Tampa Bay before the 2015 season ($1 million base salary, $250,000 signing bonus and $250,000 workout bonus). 

Reynolds pointed out Conte was "primarily signed due to his familiarity with Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme," as the coach drafted him in 2011 with the Chicago Bears. However, the Bucs fired Smith as head coach after a 6-10 finish in 2015, which left Conte’s future somewhat in doubt.  

Despite that, Conte seemed interested in returning to the Buccaneers when asked during the season, per Reynolds: "I'm definitely open to it. The main thing for me has been staying healthy this year. I missed time in camp, but when I’m healthy I think I’ve been productive and showed this team I can play. I’ve enjoyed my time in Tampa."

Tampa Bay finished a middling 16th in the league against the pass in 2015, but Reynolds noted that only Major Wright and newcomers Kimario McFadden and Gerod Holliman are under contract at the safety position. Keith Tandy is an unrestricted free agent with Conte, and Bradley McDougald will be a restricted free agent.

Conte played 14 games in 2015, finishing with 79 combined tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and six passes defended, per He will also only be 27 years old during the 2016 campaign and theoretically has a few productive years of his prime remaining.

He is a veteran who has appeared in 71 games since the start of the 2011 campaign and understands the defense from his time in Tampa Bay last year and his experience in Chicago with new defensive backs coach Jon Hoke. Bringing Conte back would also allow the Buccaneers more flexibility to focus on other positions of need during the draft without breaking the bank on one piece in free agency.