Tampa Bay Buccaneers Free-Agency Tracker: Updated Signings, Rumors and Grades
The start of the 2015 NFL league year is upon us, and the whirlwind of roster shake-ups has already begun. NFL free agency officially kicks off at 4 p.m. ET, but teams have already been hard at work, negotiating deals with potential new additions and re-signing current players to keep them off the market.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been relatively quiet during this period, despite having nearly $30 million in cap space to spend. Many fans might be panicking as the top names are agreeing to terms elsewhere, however, signing some of the big-money players hasn't worked terribly well for the Bucs over the last few years, so perhaps a more economical approach is better for the team in the long run.
Still, there's plenty of talent yet to be had on the market, and the Bucs figure to make a few more cuts before things officially get started, giving them even more cash to work with.
Keep it locked here for updates, rumors, analysis and grades on all confirmed signings as they happen.
Bucs Sign LB Bruce Carter
Carter's deal is reportedly worth $20.5 million over four years, according to his agent via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times.
A second-round pick in 2011, the North Carolina product logged 68 tackles, four interceptions and a sack last season. A versatile defender who can play any of the three linebackers spots, Carter should fit perfectly in the Tampa 2 after playing under both Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin in Dallas.
With Mason Foster not expected to re-sign with the team, Carter figures to project as the new starter at middle linebacker, while Lavonte David and Danny Lansanah man the outside spots.
After missing on many of last year's bigger signings, the Bucs were patient out of the gates despite the frenzy of free agency action this year. Carter represents a good value for a young player who will fit well in their scheme. This is exactly the type of economical signing the team should be making.
His injury concerns keep my grade down a little, but otherwise, it's a solid get for Tampa Bay.
Bucs Sign DT Henry Melton
The Bucs have added another former member of the Cowboys to their defense, announcing the signing of defensive tackle Henry Melton.
A fourth-round pick of the Bears in 2010, Melton played under Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith and tallied 13 of his 20.5 career sacks during Smith's last two seasons as Chicago's head coach. A Pro Bowler in 2012, Melton has made 35 starts over his five NFL seasons after playing his college ball at Texas.
Melton obviously has plenty of experience in the Tampa 2 and knows what Smith expects from his defensive tackles, so he should fit nicely into the scheme in Tampa Bay.
Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Melton's deal is for one year with a maximum value of $5 million, should he hit all of his incentives.
Another fairly economical addition who fits the defense well, Melton will be a strong addition to an already deep rotation for the Bucs along the interior of the defensive line.
Bucs Sign S Chris Conte
The parade of defenders who previously played under Lovie Smith continues at One Buc Place, as the Bucs announced the signing of safety Chris Conte on Thursday.
The California product has made 52 starts over his four NFL seasons, logging nine career interceptions, 21 defensed passes and two forced fumbles. He has struggled last season in Chicago after suffering multiple concussions, but played his best under Smith when he was the head coach of the Bears.
Conte's deal is for one year, though financial terms have not been disclosed.
The former Bear is familiar with the Tampa 2 defense, but he'll have to compete with the newly re-signed Major Wright and young standout Bradley McDougald for a starting job. According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs are attempting to trade Dashon Goldson, which would make the depth chart at safety a little lighter and giving the team some extra cap room.
His experience playing for Smith is a plus, but Conte's injury history and poor play over the past two seasons won't have fans too excited about his signing. If he is to bounce back, though, Tampa Bay is probably his best chance.
Keeping Their Own
Rather than chasing some of the big names, the Bucs spent the majority of the free-agency negotiation period re-signing some of their own players who were scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.
Major Wright, Leonard Johnson, Luke Stocker, Larry English, Lawrence Sidbury and Jason Williams have all re-signed with Tampa Bay.
Wright could be counted on as a starter in 2015 if the team decides to move on from Dashon Goldson, while Stocker returns after moving to fullback for much of 2014, where he had plenty of success. Johnson struggled in the nickelback role last year, but the team looks inclined to give the local product another shot.
The Bucs obviously liked what they saw in limited action from English and Sidbury last year, bringing both pass-rushers back for depth purposes. Williams performed well on special teams last year, and he will likely return to a similar role in 2015.
Restricted free agent Bobby Rainey was also signed to a one-year tender worth $1.54 million. Rainey has led the team with 938 yards rushing over the past two seasons.