After big splash, Bucs will turn to draft to continue building

TAMPA, Fla. -- Greg Schiano glanced to his left, where the three newest members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were seated, and smiled broadly.

All-Pro guard Carl Nicks, two-time Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson and well-regarded cornerback Eric Wright comprise the biggest one-day free agent haul in franchise history and figure to play key roles in whether the first-year coach makes a successful transition from Rutgers to the NFL.

"I think they're a perfect fit ... for what we want to do," Schiano said.

Schiano noted that Nicks is a punishing blocker who will help the running game, Jackson is a proven deep threat who'll make the passing attack better and Wright is a much-needed addition for a defense that must improve if the Bucs are to rebound from a 4-12 finish that included 10 consecutive losses to end last season.

Barely 14 hours after making a splash by signing Jackson to a five-year $55.55 million contract Tuesday, general manager Mark Dominik closed five-year deals Wednesday with Nicks, one of the key blockers for Drew Brees on the Saints' record-setting offense, and Wright, who's coming off a solid season with the Lions.

Nicks received a $47.5 million deal, while Wright got a $37.5 million package -- meaning Dominik negotiated deals totaling more than $140 million in one day after not spending much at all on other team's free agents the past two years.

And it appears the spending spree -- the Bucs entered free agency more than $42 million under the league salary cap -- is done.

Lombardi: March madness

Free agency's a frenzied dance between agents and organizations, but Michael Lombardi explains the market's madness. More ...

"Our eyes are turned toward the draft," where Tampa Bay has the fifth overall pick and will seek to address other needs, Dominik said.

"We've made our mark," the general manager added, "for what we wanted to accomplish."

Jackson gives the Bucs the legitimate No. 1 pass catcher they've lacked since Keyshawn Johnson helped Tampa Bay win its only Super Bowl title 10 years ago. The three-time 1,000-yard receiver had 37 touchdown receptions in seven seasons with the Chargers and provides a deep threat for young quarterback Josh Freeman.

Jackson's contract, which will pay the receiver $13 million in each of his first two seasons in Tampa Bay, was done in all 5's in honor of Freeman, who wears jersey No. 5.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.