TAMPA — One day after courting former Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, the Bucs went in a different direction, making an even larger move to trade for Logan Mankins, a six-time Pro Bowl guard with the Patriots.
"He has a history of a certain type of play in the league," coach Lovie Smith said. "Most people say Logan Mankins — tough football player, real man, everybody loves him, great guy in your locker room. … Exactly what we need on our football team and of course in the offensive line room."
To land Mankins, 32, who has been to the Pro Bowl five years in a row, the Bucs gave up second-year tight end Tim Wright and a 2015 fourth-round pick.
Mankins becomes the second-oldest Bucs player behind only quarterback Josh McCown, and he'll be the team's highest-paid offensive lineman, due to make $6.25 million this season and potentially $20 million over the three years left on his contract.
More important, the Bucs have taken their biggest concern — inconsistent guard play has been looming over the team's optimism in preseason — and turned it into a surprising new source of leadership.
"We're very excited to acquire a player like Logan," said general manager Jason Licht, who worked in the Patriots front office from 2009-11. "We feel very fortunate. Logan is a very good player. (I'm a) first-hand witness to what he means in the locker room as well. His play on the field speaks for itself."
Mankins, who will not play in Thursday's preseason finale, becomes the fourth new starter on the offensive line, likely at left guard. His acquisition likely puts the urgency to sign Incognito on the back burner — Licht and Smith insisted the door was still open, but when asked about Mankins' age, Licht said, "He's 32. Richie was 31."
Wright caught 54 passes for 571 yards and five touchdowns last year as an undrafted rookie from Rutgers. He had fallen on the depth chart, however, as the Bucs added rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins and free agent signee Brandon Myers, and veteran Luke Stocker has returned healthy after missing last season with injury.
"It tells you we feel very good about the three tight ends we have on our roster," Licht said. "It speaks about that. We think Tim is a very good football player. Came in, caught 54 balls, that's a pretty remarkable feat. We feel the return we got on the investment obviously worked in our favor. They probably feel they got a pretty good deal, too."
Mankins gave up 10 sacks individually last season, after allowing nine total in 34 games from 2010-12, according to Masslive.com.
Licht isn't the only Bucs executive with strong Patriots ties — his No. 2, director of player personnel Jon Robinson, was with New England from 2002-13, covering all of Mankins' nine NFL seasons.
The news came with shock in New England, where Mankins had started 130 games in the past nine seasons, a former first-round pick and a cornerstone on a perennial playoff team.
"Logan Mankins is everything we would ever want in a football player. It is hard to imagine a better player at his position, a tougher competitor or a person to represent our program," coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. "He is one of the all-time great Patriots and the best guard I ever coached. Logan brought a quiet but unmistakable presence and leadership that will be impossible to duplicate."
The Bucs hope to find that same presence this season, where their offensive line has been given a much-needed jolt of experience and stability at a key position.
"This is just a guy that we felt you couldn't pass on," Smith said. "Not only do we talk about the Pro Bowls he's gone to, but (a) team captain. Once you get a chance to know Logan, you'll see what we're talking about."