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Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign free agent wide receiver Vincent Jackson for $55 million plus

TAMPA — Some receivers change their name to Ochocinco and others sign contracts with ocho cincos.

That was the case Tuesday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Chargers free agent Vincent Jackson to a five-year, $55,555,555 million contract. The high-fiving deal was a nod to quarterback Josh Freeman, who wears No. 5 and now has a legitimate No. 1 receiver.

Less than four hours after the new league year began, the Bucs acquired the best available offensive weapon, signing Jackson, the two-time Pro Bowl receiver.

The deal, which makes Jackson the second-highest paid player on the team behind defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, includes $26 million in guarantees and $36 million the first three years.

Jackson, 29, who was the Chargers' franchise player last season, caught 60 passes for 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns. He gives Tampa Bay a legitimate No. 1 receiver with a career 17.5 yard per catch average for Freeman.

"Very happy to have @VincentTJackson as a teammate," McCoy tweeted. "Great addition to our young explosive offense. Big target for my man Freeman."

Jackson has eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in three of the past four seasons, the exception coming in 2010 when he was embroiled in a long holdout.

The Bucs might be just getting started. They arranged a visit with Saints free agent guard Carl Nicks, who arrived in Tampa on Tuesday night hoping to strike a deal with Tampa Bay within 24 hours. Nicks is generally considered the best available offensive lineman in free agency.

Tampa Bay also expressed an interest in several free agents, including Lions cornerback Eric Wright, Chargers running back Mike Tolbert, Seahawks tight end John Carlson and Giants quarterback David Carr. Tolbert and Carlson plan to begin their tour with a visit to Kansas City.

The 6-foot-5 Jackson is the Bucs' biggest receiver acquisition since they traded two first-round picks in 2000 to the Jets for Keyshawn Johnson.

Jackson will provide another big target for Freeman, who struggled last season to find open receivers and threw 22 interceptions. Mike Williams, who led all rookies with 11 touchdown receptions in 2010, went through a sophomore slump and caught only three touchdown passes.

"Big move by Tampa Bay. They had money to spend, you just didn't know if they were going to spend it," former Ravens coach and Fox analyst Brian Billick said. "Vincent Jackson is a good pickup. Josh Freeman is an excellent quarterback but he looked to take a step backward.

"They've got very young receiving corps. It's a solid one with Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn, but it's not one with a solid No. 1 guy. They get a legitimate No. 1 in Vincent Jackson."

In 91 career games, Jackson has 272 catches for 4,754 yards and 37 TDs.

Nicks, 26, was engaged in some last-minute contract negotiations Monday night with the Saints, but did not reach a deal. Nicks will likely command more than $8 million per year.

Jackson could be joined by a Chargers teammate. Tolbert, a 5-9, 240-pound sparkplug, combined with Ryan Mathews for a potent 1-2 punch in San Diego's backfield. He has averaged 4.1 yards per carry in his career, and has 19 rushing touchdowns in the past two seasons.

Carr, a former No. 1 overall draft choice, was Eli Manning's backup in 2011. According to agent Tim Younger, Carr has interest from other teams but coming to Tampa Bay would reunite him with Mike Sullivan, the Bucs' offensive coordinator and former Giants quarterbacks coach.

The Bucs' approach to free agency Tuesday was in stark contrast to the build-through-the-draft philosophy they have practiced since 2009. A year ago, the only free agent they signed from another team was punter Michael Koenen.

The Bucs had been $42.7 million below the $120.6 million salary cap, giving them the third-most money of any team for free agency. It also backed up a pledge made by co-chairman Joel Glazer Jan. 2 when Raheem Morris was fired after a 4-12 season to invest in free agency.

"We will always do what it takes to win," Glazer said that day. "I've heard that a lot, and again, we'll never hide from our responsibility in this because we're 4-12. Ultimately, we're the owners and it starts with us."

Bucs coach Greg Schiano said he wants a power running game and take shots downfield. Jackson — and perhaps Nicks — could help the Bucs do that.

Then there will be high-fives all around.

VINCENT JACKSON CAREER STATS

Year G Rec Yds Yds/Rec TD Lng

2005 8 3 59 19.7 0 21

2006 16 27 453 16.8 6 55

2007 16 41 623 15.2 3 45

2008 16 59 1098 18.6 7 60

2009 15 68 1167 17.2 9 55

2010 5 14 248 17.7 3 58

2011 16 60 1106 18.4 9 58

Career 92 272 4754 17.5 37 60

Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign free agent wide receiver Vincent Jackson for $55 million plus 03/13/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 1:23am]

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