Jason Licht thrilled to re-sign Jamel Dean and Anthony Nelson
Bucs general manager Jason Licht sounded elated Thursday afternoon to keep the fold on two of the team’s greatest free agents: cornerback Jamel Dean and outside linebacker Anthony Nelson.
These are not the only important steps the team made at the start of the season free desk, as they also re-signed linebacker Lavonte David while adding two offensive players expected to be key contributors in Baker Mayfield and Chase Edmonds.
But Thursday afternoon was all about Dean and Nelson’s return to Tampa Bay.
Bucs GM Light Comments on Re-signing Jamel Dean, Anthony Nelson
Licht issued an opening statement on Thursday afternoon following these major re-registrations.
“Extremely excited to be here today,” said Licht. “It’s a very underrated moment when you draw; the organization draws an extension of a player they drafted, nurtured and developed. Sometimes you tend to celebrate the guy that you sign up a free desk from another…elicits a little more from another team. But in this case, we’re more excited because it shows that we don’t just want them back because we feel like they’re great players who are going to help us win another championship, but they also wanted to be here.
“In the case of Anthony and Jamel, I know they’ve had a lot of opportunities, and so has Lavonte, but a second contract is great. In terms of Lavonte, a fourth contract, but that’s a whole different story, which is great. But these guys embody what we’re looking for, not just on the pitch but off the pitch as well.”
The fact that the Bucs were able to re-sign Dean and Nelson as well as David not only demonstrates the ability of Licht, Mike Greenberg and others, but it also shows that the formula the team has had to make playoff teams to put together is something the players bought themselves.
Any of them probably could have signed for more money elsewhere, especially in the case of Dean and David, two of the NFL’s top free agents. according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Dean re-signed for a four-year bargain, $52 million, while David re-signed for a year, $7 million, which is great value.
To put in context, both PFF and our own Josh Queipo predicted a deal in the $68-72 million dollar four-year range for Dean. It definitely looks like the Bucs got a hometown discount for both, while it’s worth holding onto Nelson for a $5.5 million two-year average if he reflects his production from last season.
Jamel Dean, Anthony Nelson “happy” and “thrilled” to remain Bucs
So why did Dean and Nelson want to stay in town? It wasn’t just the warm weather. Okay, maybe it played a role in Dean’s case.
“I appreciate you, Jason, because I really didn’t want to leave, man,” Dean said. “I was born and raised in Florida, I’m close to home, I feel comfortable. So I was like, ‘Why should I leave?’”
‘I’d hate to have to go up north, man, I really don’t like the cold. But she [the Bucs] started making some adjustments, I was like ‘Okay, there’s a chance,’ and then Carlton [Davis] called me and said, “Yo, they really want you.” I was like ‘Woah, okay then, so they started leaning towards my favorite.’ It worked and I am happy to be here.”
In Nelson’s case, it was more about winding down his own contract year. After starting just four games in his first three seasons, that doubled in 2022 when he made eight starts while recording a career-high 5.5 sacks.
His production really ramped up in the last five games of the year. In those games, he recorded 23 combined tackles, three forced fumbles, and 2.5 sacks. Nelson’s impact in these games as a pass rusher was critical in overcoming the Bucs’ injuries to fellow linebackers Shaq Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka.
“Tampa has been great,” Nelson said. “Great for my family, I’ve been given a lot of opportunities here and I’m looking forward to another one, man. We’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ve got a lot more to prove, [for] me personally and as an organization. So I felt like it was a good fit for me.”
GM Jason Licht, front office is still “not done”.
While the Bucs will look for more value in free agency and the draft, Licht reiterated that this is not the end of the moves the team will make.
“We’re not done yet; we’re going to have some more [moves]. We need to make a little bit, a little bit more responsible or reasonable purchases right now because of where we are. But sometimes you get your best deals and that’s where you get your best players, contributors.”
If there’s anything to be gained from listening to Thursday’s press conference, it’s that these signings, among others, put the Bucs in a much better position to remain competitive in what should be another tight divisional race next season.
Aside from the Brady-sized hole in the roster, there won’t be too much outgoing talent on the roster that can’t be replaced with more affordable, younger options through the draft and player development. As Licht mentioned at the NFL Scouting Combine, it will be more of a “top upthan rebuilding a roster that has been a contender in recent seasons.
There are, of course, still areas to address, such as safety, offensive tackle, and outside linebacker, just to name a few. If the upcoming NFL Draft can inject impact players into these positions, and if all the changes in coaching staff and key positions materialize, the Bucs will be an exciting group to watch in 2023. Excitement has already begun to build after their successful efforts to keep some of its homegrown talent in Tampa Bay.
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