Cornerback Brian Kelly's 10-year tenure in Tampa Bay officially came to an end Saturday when he signed a three-year contract with the Detroit Lions.
Kelly, 32, paid $500,000 to Tampa Bay in order to buy himself out of the final year of his contract, which allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent on Feb. 29.
The 5-foot-11, 193-pound Kelly originally entered the NFL with the Bucs as a second-round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.
Kelly notched 429 career tackles, 22 interceptions, two forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and 118 passes defensed in 130 games (79 starts). He was Tampa Bay's starting left cornerback on the Bucs' Super Bowl XXXVII team.
The former USC Trojan has struggled with injuries over the past two seasons, playing in just 13 games over the span. Last season, Kelly played in 11 games (four starts) and notched 25 tackles, two interceptions and nine passes defensed.
Even though Tampa Bay still has Ronde Barber and Phillip Buchanon under contract, Kelly's departure has the Buccaneers in the market for a cornerback. They are expected to sign one in free agency and/or select one in the 2008 NFL Draft.
In the meantime, Detroit, which had the 32nd-ranked defense in the NFL last year, continues to collect former Tampa Bay defensive players. In addition to Kelly, Bucs restricted free agent safety Kalvin Pearson has already signed an offer sheet with the Lions. The Bucs have until Mar. 12 to match it.
The Lions have also signed several other former Bucs players over the last two years, including defensive tackle Chartric Darby, safety Dwight Smith and defensive end Dewayne White.
Those former Tampa Bay players have been recruited by Detroit head coach Rod Marinelli, defensive coordinator coach Joe Barry and defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake, all of who previously worked on the Buccaneers coaching staff.
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