The Bucs have signed top free agent WR Vincent Jackson to a five-year, $55.55 million contract, and they are hoping the former San Diego star doesn't wind up like some of the team's free agent flops at the wide receiver position.
The Buccaneers opened eyes around the league and in Tampa Bay’s fan base when the team landed prized free agent wide receiver Vincent Jackson. The former San Diego Chargers receiver reportedly signed a five-year, $55.55 million contract that comes with $26 million in guaranteed money.
Tampa Bay needed a primary receiver and one that had speed to stretch the field. Jackson, who caught 60 passes for 1,106 yards and tied a career high with nine touchdown catches, had one of the best yards per catch averages in the league last year with 18.4. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound receiver gives quarterback Josh Freeman a big target to throw to in Tampa Bay’s new offense, which will feature a heavy dose of the running game with several shots downfield in the passing game off play-action.
The 29-year old Jackson has averaged an impressive 17.9 yards per catch over his career and had 272 receptions for 4,754 yards and 37 touchdowns during his tenure with San Diego.
The Glazers haven’t minded paying wide receivers, the NFL’s glamour position, glamorous money through the years. In 1995, the first year the Glazers owned the Buccaneers, they shelled out $10 million over four years for former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Alvin Harper. A few years later in 1998, they signed restricted free agent Bert Emanuel to a four-year, $16-million contract.
Neither move panned out with the Buccaneers, as both Harper and Emanuel were No. 2 wide receivers in Dallas and Atlanta, respectively, and didn’t have the talent to emerge as a primary target in Tampa Bay.
Harper started 20 of 25 games in his two-year career with the Buccaneers before being released prior to the start of the 1997 season. He caught just 65 passes for 922 yards (14.2 avg.) and only three touchdowns. Harper was perhaps best known for having the tip of his finger accidentally cut off by former Bucs assistant trainer Joe-Joe Petrone.
Like Harper, Emanuel only lasted two years with the Buccaneers. Nicknamed “Hurt” Emanuel because he dealt with numerous injuries while in Tampa Bay, the former Falcons wide receiver played in just 22 games in red and pewter. His production was slightly worse than Harper’s as Emanuel caught only 63 passes for 874 yards (13.9 avg.) and scored three TDs.
But the Glazers’ biggest splash came when the Buccaneers traded two first-round picks in the 2000 NFL Draft for Keyshawn Johnson, then signed him to an eight-year, $56-million contract that made him the NFL’s second-highest paid wide receiver. Johnson was by far the best high-priced wideout signed by Tampa Bay.
After catching eight touchdowns in 2000, Johnson only hauled in one score in 2001, but set a team record with 106 catches for 1,266 yards. In Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl season in 2002, Johnson led the way with 76 catches for 1,088 yards and five touchdowns before adding another pivotal score in Philadelphia to give the Bucs a halftime lead in the NFC Championship Game.
Johnson recorded 298 catches for 3,828 yards (12.8 avg.) and 17 touchdowns in Tampa Bay, and became an exceptional perimeter blocker for the Buccaneers’ running backs.
In June of 2002, Tampa Bay signed Keenan McCardell to a four-year, $10-million contract. McCardell was a key contributor to Tampa Bay’s championship season, catching two touchdown passes in the Super Bowl. After recording 145 receptions for 1,844 yards (12.7 avg.) and 14 touchdowns, McCardell’s stay in Tampa Bay was over after former general manager Bruce Allen traded him to San Diego rather than renegotiate his contract after McCardell’s Pro Bowl season in which he had 1,174 yards and eight TDs.
Signing McCardell was a great move by the Buccaneers as he helped the team win a Super Bowl in 2002 and then post a 1,000-yard Pro Bowl season the following year.
In 2009, the Glazers and general manager Mark Dominik re-signed wide receiver Michael Clayton to a five-year, $26 million deal that included $10.5 million in guaranteed money. The extension proved to be a huge mistake, as Clayton never regained his form after a rookie season in 2004 that saw him grab 80 passes for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns.
Injuries and ineffectiveness caused Clayton to never reach 500 yards in any single season and the LSU product only posted three touchdown catches over his final five seasons with the Buccaneers. After signing his lucrative contract extension in 2009, Clayton had his worst year in Tampa Bay, posting just 16 catches for 230 yards and one score.
The reason why the acquisitions of McCardell and Johnson worked out so well is because both were primary receivers with their respective teams, Jacksonville and the New York Jets, before coming to Tampa Bay. The fact that Jackson was a number one receiver in San Diego bodes well for the Buccaneers given the team’s history of signing free agent wide receivers.
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