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NFL Free Agency 2017: Grading the Buccaneers’ first day

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Washington Redskins v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Cliff McBride/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a pretty busy first day of free agency. They re-signed a few players, added a prime free agent in DeSean Jackson at a reasonable price, and added some much-needed defensive line depth with defensive lineman Chris Baker.

All those signings come with grades, of course, because that’s what people want to know immediately even though we can’t realistically make proper judgments of any signing until years later (or, in the worst case scenario, one year later).

WR DeSean Jackson, three years, $35 million

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got the explosive receiver they wanted. Not in the draft, as some of us expected (though don’t rule that out, either), but in free agency. Veteran DeSean Jackson reached an agreement with the Bucs as soon as the clock struck 4 and free agency opened.

With a $35 million contract over three years and $20 million guaranteed, Jackson got a pretty big contract, but not one close to the top of the market. It’s comparable to what Pierre Garcon got and significantly less than what Alshon Jeffery received. It’s not cheap, but certainly not expensive.

The biggest question mark will be how Jackson will work with Winston. He still has plenty of speed, but he’s not a particularly versatile receiver and has had some inconsistent production in the past. With Winston struggling with the deep ball, will Jackson’s speed help, or will it just mean lots of errant throws over Jackson’s head?

Ryan Van Bibber, at least, gave the signing an A.

To compete in the NFC South right now, you have to be able to keep pace with the Falcons offense. Adding Jackson helps the Bucs accomplish that by giving them a dynamic speedster to pair with Mike Evans.

I tend to agree: Jackson brings a new dimension to this offense, one they haven’t had since the days of Joey Galloway over a decade ago. They didn’t overpay, they can say goodbye to Jackson in a year if the production is disappointing, and they won’t have to gamble (to an extent) on a draft pick. There’s always a risk with free agents, but this signing makes sense on all level.

Bucs Nation grade: A

DL Chris Baker, three years, $15.75 million

The Bucs put a nice chunk of change in front of Baker, who will mostly replace Akeem Spence at nose tackle and rotate in on passing downs. He’d also fit some 3-4 lineups the Bucs are likely to toy around with. He’s bigger than most of the Bucs’ linemen, and fits what defensive coordinator Mike Smith has done in the past.

At the same time, this is a pretty hefty contract for a player who’s been reasonably productive, but has never come close to cracking double-digit sacks. With Clinton McDonald and Gerald McCoy on the roster as well as a few versatile defensive ends who can slide inside, the question is how much playing time he’d get.

Overall, though, I really like this signing. It adds depth and quality to a defensive line that needs it. The Bucs might have overpaid a little, but even if they did, this kind of investment won’t hurt them in the short or long term.

Bucs Nation grade: B+

S Chris Conte, re-signed for two years, $5 million

The Bucs are hanging on to Chris Conte, prompting many cries of despair from Bucs fans. Few Bucs players get as much hate as Conte, though Gerald McCoy might (far more undeservedly) come close.

Conte’s contract makes this re-signing just fine, though. The numbers point to a primarily special teams role and part-time defender. Conte has limitations and flaws, but he’s useful in sub packages, made some nice splash plays last year, and is a good special teamer.

The Bucs also have no depth whatsoever at safety, and I expect them to both sign J.J. Wilcox (who will reportedly visit the Bucs) and use a fairly high draft pick on the position. In light of all that, this is not an expensive re-signing of a prospective starter, just retaining a useful role player.

Bucs Nation grade: B-

RB Jacquizz Rodgers, re-signed for two years, $3.3 million

This re-signing was necessary. With Doug Martin’s future in limbo, the Bucs simply do not have an early-down running back they can count on. Rodgers showed last year that he can carry the rock and be productive, so re-signing him gives the Bucs some options at the position. Plus, the contract is super cheap.

Bucs Nation grade: A