TAMPA — The Bucs signed nose tackle Vita Vea to a four-year contract extension that runs through 2026.
Vea, the massive interior cog on a defense that has allowed the fewest rushing yards per game (80.8 average) since the start of 2019, could earn up to $73 million over the course of the deal. ESPN reported Saturday night that $42 million is guaranteed for Vea, who turns 27 next month.
“Vita Vea has emerged as one of our league’s most disruptive interior defensive linemen due to a unique skill set that combines strength and superior athleticism,” general manager Jason Licht said in a statement.
“Vita’s abilities as both a premier run stuffer and pass rusher are rare, and his presence on the defensive front has played a major role in our ability to consistently rank among the league leaders in rush defense since his arrival.”
The Bucs’ first-round draft pick out of Washington in 2018 has 27 tackles, three sacks and 10 quarterback hurries this season, though his contributions transcend statistics arguably more than any other defensive player.
Impressively agile at 6 feet 4 and 347 pounds, his presence essentially has discouraged offenses from attempting to establish the run while forcing double teams that free up other defensive linemen.
The Bucs are allowing an average 91.4 rushing yards a game this season, third fewest in the league entering Saturday, and the 347 rushing attempts they’ve faced were the fewest of any defense. Additionally, 35-year-old Ndamukong Suh is enjoying a resurgent year that includes six sacks and 13 quarterback hurries.
Over the past two seasons, the Bucs have allowed an average of 3.6 yards per carry by opposing backs when Vea is on the field and 4.2 when he’s off, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.
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