TAMPA — Two days after seven-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins retired, the Bucs landed his successor, signing former Seahawks guard J.R. Sweezy to a five-year deal worth $32.5 million on Wednesday, the first day of free agency.
Sweezy, who turns 27 next month, has started all but two games over the past three seasons in Seattle. His deal includes $14.5 million fully guaranteed, and with an annual average salary of $6.5 million, he's now the Bucs' highest-paid offensive lineman, just less than the $7 million Mankins would have made.
The new contract is a major accomplishment for Sweezy, who played defensive line at N.C. State and switched to offensive line after Seattle took him in the seventh round in 2012. He is the only Seahawk to take part in every offensive snap in their past eight playoff games, including Super Bowl XLVIII.
Adding Sweezy as a starting guard means third-year pro Kevin Pamphile is either competing with veterans Demar Dotson and Gosder Cherilus to start at right tackle or back as the Bucs' sixth lineman, used as a "jumbo" tight end for a six-man line in some packages.
Sweezy is the third starting lineman the Bucs have signed from Seattle since general manager Jason Licht was hired. They signed defensive tackle Clinton McDonald in 2014 and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel last season.
PASS-RUSH HELP: The Bucs are also working to address their defensive line and brought in Giants defensive end Robert Ayers for a visit to One Buc Place on Wednesday night.
Ayers, 30, had a career year in 2015 with the Giants, finishing with 91/2 sacks. In seven seasons in the NFL, he has 261/2 career sacks, with his first five seasons coming in Denver before signing with New York in 2014.
The Bucs need a dominating pass rusher and tried to land Carolina's Charles Johnson, bringing him in for a visit on Tuesday only to see him opt to return to the Panthers for less money.
With the Giants landing perhaps the best pass-rusher in free agency in the Dolphins' Olivier Vernon and re-signing former USF standout Jason Pierre-Paul to a one-year deal, Ayers knows he wouldn't be a starter for New York. The Bucs have the first crack at landing his services for 2016 and beyond.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and at (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.