TAMPA — Will Gholston could have waited one more day and hit the open market, finding out how much the rest of the NFL valued his skills as a defensive end. The Bucs convinced him they valued him enough to stick around for another five years, and he signed an extension reportedly worth $27.5 million.
"I'm very excited. It's an amazing day, a great day for me and my family," said Gholston, 25, a fourth-round draft pick in 2013 out of Michigan State. "I'm very glad to be able to spend the next five years of my career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hopefully more than that. I'm ready to go."
Gholston has easily been the Bucs' most prolific tackler on the defensive line, effective against the run. He has 116 total tackles in the last two seasons, and the next-closest defensive lineman, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, has 68. Gholston has 10 sacks in his first four seasons, but said he hopes to expand that part of his game so he can be as dangerous against quarterbacks as he is against running backs.
With incentives, Gholston can make as much as $9 million more over the five-year contract. He said bringing defensive coordinator Mike Smith back with an extension was important for him, and the contract showed he was important to Tampa Bay's future.
"We really went over everything, all the numbers, all the pros and cons, and I felt like Tampa came with an offer I couldn't say no to," said Gholston, who made a total of $2.56 million in his first four seasons. "I love the area, love the team. I have relationships with everybody in the locker room and really respect the knowledge of all the coaches."
Re-signing Gholston was a priority for the Bucs entering free agency. They still have 16 unrestricted free agents with the league's "legal tampering" window for teams to begin talks with free agents starting at noon today.