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Bucs too willing to spend on interior offensive line

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
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By Dan Parr

It was a busy first day of free agency for the Buccaneers, but they didn't stop to catch their breath on Day Two.

After landing the top wide receiver on the open market in Vincent Jackson on Tuesday, the Bucs added arguably the best guard in the league early Wednesday with the signing of Carl Nicks.

Nicks, who was named to the last two All-Pro teams as a member of the Saints, agreed to a five-year contract worth $47.5 million with $31 million guaranteed, according to reports. That deal would make him the highest-paid guard in the league in terms of per-year average and total guarantees.

The Saints made Nicks a contract offer that he described as "respectable," but it wasn't enough to convince him to stay.

The Bucs have guaranteed $72.5 million to Jackson, Nicks and ex-Lions CB Eric Wright — who agreed to a five-year deal worth $37.5 million with $15.5 million guaranteed — since free agency started. The total value of their deals adds up to a whopping  $140.5 million.

The team has scheduled a 1 p.m. ET press conference to introduce the three players.

The PFW Spin

It used to be that the Saints had the best guard tandem in the league. The Bucs boast the best 1-2 punch at the position today, however, with Nicks joining Davin Joseph, a two-time Pro Bowler who signed a seven-year, $53 million deal with $19 million guaranteed last year. The Bucs also signed C-OG Jeremy Zuttah to a four-year, $16.3 million contract with $8.05 million guaranteed earlier this month. There are reports that veteran Jeff Faine, the team's starter at center since 2008, will be released, clearing a starting spot for Zuttah, but the team has made no announcement about Faine's status.

It's rare — in fact it's probably unheard of — to have a team devote such a large chunk of cap space to the interior O-line, and it will be interesting to hear GM Mark Dominik explain why he was willing to do so. For a team with so many needs, it's an awfully significant amount of resources to devote to that spot — one where teams fare adequately, if not quite well, without any high-priced superstars at the position. Would the Bucs have not been better served by drafting a guard — one of the strongest position groups in the draft — and signing a free-agent middle linebacker, where there is less intriguing talent available in the draft?

Nicks will play left guard, as he did with New Orleans, and Joseph will continue in his usual spot at right guard, giving the Bucs a formidable, powerful interior offensive line. If Nicks stays motivated after a massive payday, he and Joseph have the ability to dominate in the trenches.

That 'if' is a big one, however. The Saints know Nicks better than any other team, and they were willing to let him depart to join a division rival because the price just wasn't right. That's a significant statement by the Saints. If they really believed they had to have him back, there would cleared the cap space to make it happen.

New Bucs offensive line coach Bob Bostad has had tremendous success on the college level and had just received a promotion, going from the O-line coach at Wisconsin — where he helped develop 2011 draft picks Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt and Bill Nagy — to O-coordinator/O-line coach at Pittsburgh before Bucs head coach Greg Schiano convinced him to join him in Tampa.

However, Bostad has never coached at the NFL level before. He has some very nice pieces to work with, but also the challenge of managing and motivating some highly paid players up front who are charged with keeping QB Josh Freeman upright and clearing holes for a running game that ranked 30th in the league last season.

The Bucs are living large, and somewhat dangerously, in free agency.

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