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A look at the Tampa Bay Bucs' newest additions

TAMPA — They paraded into the room wearing wide smiles, each having just been made a cornerstone of a franchise for years to come. Receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright shared their reasons for becoming Buccaneers. Then, they explained why they think the Bucs can be winners in the very near future. Here's a sampling of what we learned Wednesday from the three players the Bucs landed in their biggest leap into free agency in franchise history.

Vincent Jackson

Five years, $55.55 million

How he got here

Jackson, 29, had been at odds with his former team, the Chargers, since 2010 when he had a contract dispute and held out. When he reached unrestricted free agency last season, Jackson and the team couldn't come to terms, and he was designated the franchise player.

To retain him in 2012 and beyond, the Chargers either had to agree to a long-term deal with him or franchise him again. The problem? Franchise players must make at least 120 percent of their previous year's salary, which would have pushed Vincent's salary to $13.7 million. The Chargers said no way and let Vincent hit the open market.

He remained there for less than 12 hours, the Bucs scooping him up with a massive deal.

"It's a great feeling," Jackson said. "It has been a meticulous road I've had to travel to get here."

Why he's here

Jackson is here to, as he put it, "take the top off the defense." He's averaged 17.5 yards per catch in his career, 18.4 in 2011 (seventh-best among starting receivers). He's here to be the deep threat that's lacking on offense, a unit that ranked 25th in yards per completion (6.5) in 2011.

Jackson instantly becomes the Bucs' No. 1 receiver, providing top-end speed and the deep threat that should create mismatches for him and other receivers. Jackson's presence also does wonders for running back LeGarrette Blount and the running game, theoretically forcing defenses to back off and consistently play the pass.

What he's saying

"It's an opportunity to do something special. If we didn't believe that it could happen here with the guys that they have, we probably would've been happy to stay where we were at. . . We're all hungry to prove something. I can't wait for that first ball to be kicked off."

Carl Nicks

Five years, $47.5 million

How he got here

Nicks, a fifth-round pick of the Saints in 2008, blossomed into an All-Pro on New Orleans' formidable offensive line, helping protect quarterback Drew Brees and picking up a Super Bowl title.

With the Saints committing to a lucrative, long-term deal with guard Jahri Evans last year, it became difficult to also retain Nicks, 26, as he headed into free agency.

The Saints' last-minute offer Monday night wasn't enough.

"I've got love for those guys and that organization," he said. "But … they're not wearing the same color as I am, so I have to battle for my team and they have to battle for theirs. Expect nothing less than what I used to do for Tampa, I guess."

Why he's here

The Bucs released veteran center Jeff Faine on Wednesday afternoon, completing their revamping of the interior of their offensive line. Nicks is the centerpiece, expected to play left guard, while Jeremy Zuttah, who re-signed for four years last week, will become the starting center.

The Bucs want to be more physical, and Nicks prefers run blocking to what he jokingly described as the Saints' "pass first, pass second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth" philosophy.

"The Saints had great running backs. But here it is a little different. We have big guys, bruisers. We will pound the ball, pound the ball, then (go) over the top," said Nicks, who called himself a grinder.

"Not to sound cocky," he said, "but it's just what I do."

What he's saying

"Right when I got off the plane (on Tuesday night), I checked my phone and I saw that (the Bucs) had signed Jackson. I said, 'Okay, they're doing something here.' … To be a part of something that's eventually going to be great is a good feeling."

Eric Wright

Five years, $37.5 million

How he got here

The Bucs made an unsuccessful effort to sign Wright last year about this time, when he opted for a one-year, $2 million deal in Detroit. His gamble paid off Wednesday when he reached his rich deal with the Bucs.

Wright, 26, sees himself as an elite cornerback, and now he'll have a chance to prove it further in the NFC South against the Saints, Panthers and Falcons.

Why he's here

The Bucs had privately vowed to come out of free agency with a starting-caliber cornerback because, well, how could they afford not to?

Starting left cornerback Aqib Talib is scheduled to stand trial in a felony case in Texas in two weeks, and right cornerback Ronde Barber still might retire.

Look for Wright to take over at right cornerback, provided Talib can play (he faces serious jail time if convicted). The Bucs weren't prepared to make their backup cornerbacks starters if it necessary, so Wright addresses a big need.

What he's saying

"You get to know people (around the league) and they all say the same thing: (this is) a team you want to play for and it's an organization that you want to be a part of. Everybody has one goal and that's to win. I want to help them win and I'm here now, so that's exactly what we're going to do."

A look at the Tampa Bay Bucs' newest additions

03/15/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 15, 2012 12:15am]
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