New guard J.R. Sweezy eager for future with Bucs
TAMPA -- J.R. Sweezy has the difficult task of replacing Logan Mankins as the Bucs' new left guard, but he already shares the seven-time Pro Bowler's love of clearing a path for running back Doug Martin.
"I love run blocking. That's what I live for," said Sweezy, 26, signed to a five-year, $32.5-million contract on Wednesday that includes $14.5-million guaranteed. "I take a lot of pride in it. I want to run the football. It's what I'm about."
The Bucs hope that Sweezy can bring a winning mentality to their improving team -- he started in 10 playoff games in four seasons in Seattle, including Super Bowl LXVIII two years ago. Last year, quarterback Russell Wilson called him "the best guard in football."
Tampa Bay's top priority was re-signing Martin to his own five-year deal Wednesday, but their next move was to bring in Sweezy, who also takes over Mankins' role as the Bucs' highest-paid lineman.
"We identified J.R. early on as one of our top targets in free agency," Bucs general manager Jason Licht said in a statement. "He has all of the attributes we look for in an offensive lineman -- tough, physical, smart, athletic -- and he is a winner. We are excited to have him on board with us."
Sweezy has played right guard exclusively with Seattle, but said he'll move into Mankins' spot at left guard, allowing Ali Marpet to stay in the position he played as a rookie last fall. He played defensive tackle in college at N.C. State, flipping to offense as a rookie in 2012, so it's an easy transition by comparison.
The Bucs still haven't addressed their defense at all -- they brought in Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead for a visit Thursday morning, showed him a glimpse of sunny Florida, and saw him decide to go back to Detroit, signing a two-year deal to stay with the Lions. The Bucs had brought Giants defensive end Robert Ayers in for a visit on Wednesday night, but he left without a contract and reportedly was visiting the Jaguars, who entered free agency with the NFL's most salary-cap room and spent aggressively in the first 24 hours of free agency.