The Washington Post

Do Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks signings make Buccaneers contenders in NFC South?

Considered the crown jewel of the free agent wide receiver market, Vincent Jackson is headed cross country to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers .

Vincent Jackson gives the Bucs a big-play threat. (Denis Poroy/AP)

That’s a lot of production to bring aboard the pirate ship in Tampa for an offense that finished 21st in the league in yards per game and 27th in scoring. But how much will Jackson’s arrival help young quarterback Josh Freeman, who was maddeningly inconsistent in his second years as the full-time starter?

For starters, Jackson gives Freeman an elite deep threat to pair with Mike Williams — which can only help a guy who through the second most interceptions (22) in the NFL in 2011.

Very happy for Josh Freeman that he now has a lifeline: Vincent Jackson.

— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) March 14, 2012

The Bucs continued to show their dedication to surrounding their young QB with talent on Wednesday when they added Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks. Named an All-Pro with the Saints in 2011, Nicks could not re-negotiate a deal with his former team and became one of the top offensive linemen in the free agent pool.

Jackson’s contract is worth $55.6 million over five years and includes $26 million guaranteed. The Redskins , Bears, Bills and several other teams expressed interest, but Jackson, 29, elected to remain in a warmer climate. An agent for Nicks said his deal was worth $47.5 million over five years.

The Bucs, who entered free agency with more than $42 million in cap space, have also expressed interest in Chargers running back Mike Tolbert, Giants quarterback David Carr, Seahawks tight end John Carlson and others.

And Tampa Bay has a host of needs — as much as their offense struggled last season, their defense was no better, finishing 30th in the league in yards allowed per game and dead last in scoring defense (30.9 points per game).

Bringing in free agent cornerback Eric Wright will help them improve, but to compete with the likes of New Orleans and Atlanta, the Bucs will need drastic improvement on both sides of the ball. So far they’ve shown their commitment to that end in free agency.

More NFL free agency news from Washington Post Sports:

Vincent Jackson signs with Bucs for five years

CB Eric Wright will sign with Tampa Bay

Brandon Marshall: Bears say they were aware of alleged incident

Pierre Garcon announces deal with Redskins on Facebook

Matt Brooks is the high school sports editor for The Washington Post. He's an Arlington native and longtime District resident and was previously a high school sports reporter, editor for several blogs and Early Lead contributor with The Post.


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