04 OCT 2014: during the regular season game between the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
The Buccaneers will not only be talking to Doug Martin’s agent, David Dunn, about a contract extension before the running back hits free agency, but will also speak with the agent for free safety Chris Conte, who signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million with Tampa Bay last spring, about a possible extension. The Bucs’ level of interest of course will depend on Conte’s contract demands.
Conte’s deal in 2015 featured a $1 million base salary, a $250,000 signing bonus and a $250,000 workout bonus. He was primarily signed due to his familiarity with Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme, having been drafted by Smith in the third round in 2011 by Chicago. Even with Smith now gone, there is still some history between the two, as new Bucs secondary coach, Jon Hoke, coached Conte in Chicago.
Bucs FS Chris Conte – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Conte, who is entering his sixth season in the NFL, missed several weeks in training camp and the preseason due to a hamstring injury, but started 14 straight games before a knee injury at St. Louis in Week 15 forced him to go on injured reserve and miss the final two games of the 2015 season.
When asked in early December if he would consider re-signing with the Buccaneers in 2016, Conte said he would.
“I’m definitely open to it,” Conte said in November. “The main thing for me has been staying healthy this year. I missed time in camp, but when I’m healthy I think I’ve been productive and showed this team I can play. I’ve enjoyed my time in Tampa.”
The Bucs were very pleased with his play as Conte finished the year as the fourth-leading tackler with 78 stops, six tackles for loss, six pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.
“I’ve liked what he’s done,” Smith said in December. “Chris Conte is a good football player when he is on the football field. For the most part, he’s remained out there. We’ve seen flashes, we’ve seen signs.”
However, that was before the Bucs fired Smith after the team finished 6-10. Conte came to Tampa Bay to reunite with Smith, whom he is fiercely loyal to. Yet given the fact that Smith will be out of coaching in 2016, the chances are good that Conte, who turns 27 on February 23, will contemplate wearing red and pewter for at least another season.
Former Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier spoke about Conte’s importance to the team in 2015.
Bucs FS Chris Conte – Photo by: Getty Images
“I think our free safety position with Chris Conte has really upgraded our defense,” Frazier said in November. “He’s stayed healthy, which was a concern all along. When he is healthy he is one of the better safeties in our league. He’s a smart guy. He can match up on tight ends, backside of the backfield, he can even go out and cover third or fourth receivers at times and he can tackle. He’s played very, very well. We just have to keep him on the field and he will continue to get better.”
Dirk Koetter’s hiring as head coach in January prompted the hiring of new defensive coordinator Mike Smith. The Bucs need to receive better play from their safeties in 2016, and it’s a position that is thin on playmaking and experience without Conte, who was the team’s best and most consistent player in the secondary. Pro Football Focus listed Conte as one of the top 30 safeties in the league in 2015.
The Bucs list Major Wright and newcomers Kimario McFadden and Gerod Holliman as the only safeties on the roster currently under contract. Conte and Keith Tandy are unrestricted free agents, while Bradley McDougald, the team’s starting strong safety, will be a restricted free agent. Wright, who has one year left on his deal that will pay him $1.75 million, is not a lock to make the team’s 53-man roster in 2016.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
McDougald and Conte have been productive in the past, but are not game changers. It’s been said that it starts up front, so I am in favor of keeping the secondary from last year and adding players to put pressure on the QB. If Ramsey falls, I think the Bucs have to take him, but otherwise I would avoid top free agents like Eric Weddle, Eric Berry, etc. until a competent pass rush is in place.
Confirms what I wrote yesterday.
It’s nice to see Conte being loyal to his coach but he shouldn’t hold his breath waiting for Smith to return to the NFL.
With $10 million in salary coming to him combined with his record with the Bucs, he has as much chance of returning to the NFL as do hooking up with Scarlett Johannson.
Sign Eric Weedle first, keep Conte and Mcdougal. Sounds like Weedle will do anything to leave Chargers.
I’m neutral on this either way. Wright, McDougal, Conte; they’re all backs.
I love Weddle chetthevette, but his career is winding down and you can pretty much count on him signing with a contender.
I believe he could be valuable with Tampa in 2016-2017
They could do worse than Conte for sure. Depends on the money. If he stays healthy he can play.
The bucs have to look for new starters at both safety positions. I like Conte and Mcdougald. They should definitely be on the team, but they are backups in this league.
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