TAMPA — Jamel Dean was invited aboard a Bucs four-day fan cruise to Key West and the Bahamas with two other teammates about a week ago.
He won’t be shipping out of Tampa Bay again anytime soon.
The 26-year-old cornerback is staying home after agreeing to a four-year, $52 million deal (with $26 million guaranteed) with the Bucs.
Dean was considered one of the top five free agents available when the negotiating period began Monday.
Signing Dean is a remarkable development for the team, which was more than $57 million over the $224.8 million salary cap only a few weeks ago.
After having signed Carlton Davis to a three-year, $44.5 million contract last March, the Bucs have now secured their bookend cornerbacks for Todd Bowles’ defense.
Dean was ranked fifth among the top free agents available by Pro Football Focus. Last season, Dean started 15 regular-season games and had two interceptions and eight passes defensed.
For Dean to emerge as one of the top NFL free agents is impressive considering that he was once medically disqualified by Ohio State as an early enrollee due to multiple knee injuries he sustained in high school. But after a solid career at Auburn, he registered the second-fastest 40-yard dash time at the 2019 NFL scouting combine. At 6-1, 206 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.30 seconds.
A third-round draft pick, Dean was part of the Bucs’ stellar 2019 draft class that included linebacker Devin White, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, safety Mike Edwards, outside linebacker Anthony Nelson and kicker Matt Gay.
He emerged as a starter in 2021 and developed into a lockdown cornerback with a penchant for big plays. Dean allowed a completion percentage of only 50 percent, which ranked fourth in the NFL among cornerbacks with at least 50 targets, according to Pro Football Focus. His 6.1 yards per target allowed in primary coverage tied for 10th in the league.
Also on Monday, defensive tackle Rakeem-Nunez Roches used social media to say goodbye to Bucs fans. Minutes later, multiple reports confirmed Nunez-Roches had agreed to a three-year contract with the Giants.
Tampa Bay is also preparing to part ways with guard Shaq Mason if they are unable to trade him, according to multiple reports. Mason is due $8.5 million in the final year of his deal.
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