TAMPA — Whatever disappointment there was in the Bucs' locker room after a largely irrelevant 24-10 loss to the Redskins in Thursday's preseason finale, it disappeared at the mere mention of Logan Mankins, the six-time Pro Bowl guard acquired Tuesday from the Patriots.
"A Logan Mankins, you can't even expect to get a guy like that," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "When you get a guy like that, it's like a dream come true, an All-Pro who can help you get better in practice, and your overall team gets better, on and off the field."
Mankins, 32, met teammates for the first time Thursday and watched the final game. He'll be quickly inserted at left guard as Tampa Bay prepares for Sunday's season opener at home against Carolina. Another former Patriot, linebacker Dane Fletcher, was thrilled to be reunited with a leader from his New England teams.
"There's probably not a happier guy in this establishment, besides (Bucs general manager) Jason Licht, than me (about the trade)," said Fletcher, a teammate of Mankins' the past four seasons. "It's good for the team in every aspect. On the field, in the locker room, for morale, he's a great guy. It's good to get a guy like that in here."
He'll be the fourth new starter on the offensive line, joining a pair of free agent signees, left tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith, and second-year pro Patrick Omameh, who likely steps up at right guard.
"I've been hearing about Mankins for years," Collins said. "He comes from an organization that's been winning for years, so he's bringing his winning mentality here. … Playing next to him is going to be an honor."
The lone returning starter is right tackle Demar Dotson, who met Mankins on Thursday and saw in him much of the blue-collar approach the Bucs have across the line, with a wealth of experience from nine straight 10-win Patriots teams.
"To bring in a guy who's played as many games as he had, coming from a good system in New England, he's not a big rah-rah guy, but he's a guy that gets the job done," Dotson said. "It's an upgrade at the guard spot, without a question."
The Bucs lost promising young tight end Tim Wright in the trade and a fourth-round draft pick next year, but players on both sides of the ball appreciate the significance of adding a leader such as Mankins to a young locker room.
"He's a great player, a proven player in this league," linebacker Mason Foster said. "I think he'll definitely add leadership and help this team win some games. He's a cool guy, real down to earth, and it seems like he's ready to work, so I'm excited. … We've got a great GM and a great coach, and I think they're taking the right steps to make this team better."
Mankins' final game with the Patriots was Aug. 22 against the same Panthers team he'll face in his Bucs' debut Sunday. He played 49 snaps, leaving with New England up 20-0 on the way to a 405-yard offensive effort. Bucs coach Lovie Smith said he didn't anticipate problems with Mankins learning the offense enough in the next week.
"You can change the names, but he's seeing a lot of different looks, all the different looks and different blitzes," Smith said. "He should be okay."
Roster moves: The team claimed second-year guard Garrett Gilkey from the Browns on Sunday and added seven players to its practice squad. Six of the practice squad players they had cut Saturday were added: quarterback Mike Kafka, running back Jeff Demps, receiver/returner Solomon Patton, linebacker Brandon Magee, defensive tackle Matt Masifilo and tight end Cameron Brate. The Bucs also signed to the squad cornerback Brandon Dixon, the Jets' sixth-round draft pick this year out of NW Missouri State.
Three more spots were available on the 10-man squad.
Gilkey, 24, was a seventh-round pick of Cleveland in 2013 out of Division II Chadron State. He played in six games as a rookie, with a start at left guard. His line coach was George Warhop, now the Bucs' line coach.
To make room for Gilkey, the team waived undrafted rookie center Josh Allen.
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.