By this time in his life, Cameron Brate figured to be a lawyer for some big firm on Wall Street. But at 26, the Harvard graduate has made a good closing argument for why he should be considered one of the best tight ends in the NFL.
Brate's 14 touchdowns in the past two seasons is second among tight ends only to Seattle free agent Jimmy Graham. On Monday, Brate agreed to a 6-year, 40.8 million contract with $18 million in guarantees, thereby avoiding testing the market as a restricted free agent.
Brate is having a storybook career. He found a spot on the Bucs practice squad in 2014, was cut by them the next season, spent a couple weeks on the Saints practice squad until being re-signed to Tampa Bay's 53-man roster in 2015.
Two years ago, he became the Bucs starting tight end after the team released troubled former second round pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Even though they used the No. 19 overall pick last year on tight end O.J. Howard, the Bucs still saw the value in locking up Brate through the 2023 season.
Howard is a better in-line blocker in the run game. But Brate has demonstrated some uncanny chemistry in the red zone with quarterback Jameis Winston.
At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, Brate is big enough to body up against smaller defensive backs but fast enough to beat linebackers off the snap.
The new contract represents a substantial salary increase for Brate, who made $690,000 in base salary in 2017.
Brate is the second Bucs player to reach a new deal with the team. Receiver Mike Evans agreed to a five-year, $82.5 million extension on Friday. It's part of the Bucs' attempt to lock up their young core of players.