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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

High fives after Bucs sign WR Jackson: 5 years, $55,555,555



Some receivers change their name to Ochocinco and others sign contracts with ocho cincos.

That was the case Tuesday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Chargers free agent Vincent Jackson to a 5-year, $55,555,555-million contract. But the high-fiving deal was actually a nod to quarterback Josh Freeman, who wears No. 5 and now has a legitimate No. 1 receiver.

Not content to remain on the sidelines, Bucs promised to make a big splash in the free agent pool when the signing period began Tuesday.

Then they fired a cannonball.

Less than four hours after the new league year officially began, the Bucs acquired the best available offensive weapon, signing Jackson, the two-time Pro Bowl receiver. The deal, which makes Jackson the second-highest paid player on the team behind defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, includes $26-million in guarantees and $36-million the first three years.

The 29-year-old Jackson, who was the Chargers' franchise player last season, caught 60 passes for 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns. He gives Tampa Bay a legitimate No. 1 wideout for quarterback Josh Freeman with a career 17.5 yard per catch average.

In fact, Jackson has eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving plateau in three of the past four seasons, the exception coming in 2010 when he was embroiled in a lengthy holdout.

Making good on the promise by co-chairman Joel Glazer to spend 'whatever it takes" to build a winner, the Bucs broke from the free agent gate and quickly began negotiating with Jackson when the 4 p.m. signing period began. The talks were serious enough to prompt other teams interested in Jackson, such as the Redskins and Bears, to go in other directions.

The Bucs entered Tuesday's signing period about $42.7-million under the salary cap, the third most money for free agents in the NFL.

In addition the signing Jackson, agent Ben Dogra said the Bucs have arranged a visit for Saints free agent guard Carl Nicks, considered the best available offensive lineman. Nicks arrived in Tampa Tuesday night. The Bucs plan to start Jeremy Zuttah at center and are expected to release veteran Jeff Faine.

Tampa Bay also expressed an interest Tuesday in several free agents, including Lions cornerback Eric Wright, Chargers running back Mike Tolbert, Seahawks tight end John Carlson and Giants quarterback David Carr. 

The 6-foot-5 Jackson is the Bucs' biggest receiver acquisition since the team traded two first-round picks in 2000 to the New York Jets for Keyshawn Johnson. 

Jackson will provide a another big target for Freeman, who struggled last season to find open receivers and threw 22 interceptions. Mike Williams, who led all rookies with 11 touchdown receptions in 2010, went through a sophomore slump and caught only three touchdown passes.

In 91 career games, Jackson has 272 catches for 4,754 yards and 37 touchdowns.


[Last modified: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 11:49pm]


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