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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs sign Mike Smith to contract extension



Shortly after withdrawing his name from consideration from the San Diego, er, Los Angeles Chargers head coaching job Thursday morning, the Bucs made sure defensive coordinator Mike Smith was not relocating.

The Bucs signed Smith to a contract extension, assuring the team will continue on the improvement it showed on defense in 2016. Terms of the new deal were not released.

The Bucs ranked 23rd overall in total defense this season, but they showed a huge improvement the final eight games. The Bucs ranked third in the league in takeaways with 29, including 17 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries.

Tampa Bay won an NFL-high five games when scoring 19 points or less after having won one such game in the previous three seasons. The Bucs also were ranked first in the league in third down defense as opponents only converted 34.4 percent of their opportunities, improving from 30th in 2015.

"Think how much better that number would’ve been had the offense not put our defense –- that goes back to turnovers -- in such short field so many times," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said recently. "The fact is, when you look at all the stats, the numbers at the end of the year as far as records go, let’s face it, the history of offensive football in Tampa Bay is not nearly as good as the history of defensive football. Our defense came a long way this year. I think the greatest stat out there that says the most about our season is going from 30th in the league in third-down conversion to first in third-downs allowed."

Smith, 57, interviewed for both the Jaguars and Chargers head coaching jobs, bringing an impressive resume. Smith went 66-46 as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons from 2008-14, reaching the playoffs four times including the NFC Championship game in 2012. Smith was the defensive coordinator under Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville from 2003-07.

It’s unknown whether news of the Chargers relocating to Los Angeles Thursday played a factor in Smith’s decision to sign an extension to remain with the Bucs.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 12, 2017 7:42pm]


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