Jason Licht Thrilled To Re-Sign Jamel Dean, Anthony Nelson5 min read
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By: Adam Slivon
Bucs general manager Jason Licht sounded elated on Thursday afternoon to keep two of the team’s biggest free agents in the fold: cornerback Jamel Dean and outside linebacker Anthony Nelson.
These have not been the only significant moves made by the team at the beginning of free agency, as they also have re-signed inside linebacker Lavonte David while adding two offensive players expected to be key contributors in Baker Mayfield and Chase Edmonds.
But Thursday afternoon was about highlighting the returns of Dean and Nelson to Tampa Bay.
Bucs GM Licht Remarks On Re-Signing Jamel Dean, Anthony Nelson
Licht gave an opening statement on Thursday afternoon after these big re-signings.
“Extremely excited to be here today,” Licht said. “It’s a very underrated moment when you sign; the organization signs an extension to a player that they drafted, brought up, and developed. Sometimes you tend to celebrate the guy that you sign in free agency from another… lure from another team a little bit more. But in this case, we’re more excited because it shows that not only do we want them back, because we feel like they’re great players that are going to help us win another championship, but they also wanted to be here.
“In the case of Anthony and Jamel, I know that they had a lot of opportunities, and so did Lavonte, but a second contract’s awesome. In terms of Lavonte, a fourth contract, but that’s a whole other story, which is awesome. But these guys epitomize what we look for, not just on the field but off the field.”
The fact that the Bucs were able to re-sign both Dean and Nelson as well as David not only demonstrates the cap prowess of Licht, Mike Greenberg, and others, but it also shows that the formula the team has had putting together playoff teams is something that the players themselves have bought into.
Each of them arguably 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 bargain of four years, $52 million, while David re-upped for one year, $7 million, which is a great value.
To put into context, both PFF and our own Josh Queipo predicted a deal in the four-year, $68-72 million dollar range for Dean. It definitely seems like the Bucs got a hometown discount for both of them, while retaining Nelson at a $5.5 million average over two years will be worth it if he mirrors his production from last season.
Jamel Dean, Anthony Nelson “Happy” And “Excited” To Remain Bucs
So why did Dean and Nelson want to stay in town? It was not just because of the warm weather. Okay, maybe it played a part in Dean’s case.
“I appreciate you, Jason, because I honestly did not want to leave, man,” Dean said. “I was born and raised in Florida, I’m close to home, I’m comfortable. So I was like, ‘Why would I leave?’”
“I would hate to have to go up north because, man, I don’t like the cold, really. But they [the Bucs] started making some adjustments, I was just like, ‘Okay, there’s a chance,’ and then Carlton [Davis] called me and was like, ‘Yo, they really want you.’ I was like, ‘Woah, okay then, so they started leaning towards my favorite.’ Things worked out and I’m happy to be here.”
In Nelson’s case, it was more about building off his own contract year. After only starting four games in his first three seasons, that doubled in 2022 as he made eight starts while notching a career-high 5.5 sacks.
His production really picked up in the last five games of the year. In those contests, he recorded 23 combined tackles, three forced fumbles, and 2.5 sacks. Nelson’s impact in these games as a pass rusher was crucial in the Bucs overcoming injuries to fellow outside linebackers Shaq Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka.
“Tampa’s been great,” Nelson said. “Great to my family, got a lot of opportunities here and excited for another one, man. We got a lot of work to do and we 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 Are “Not Done” Yet
While the Bucs will look to find further value in free agency and the draft, Licht reiterated this is not the end of the moves the team will make.
#Bucs GM Jason Licht speaks on how proud he is of the front office for the job they’ve done. They all share and believe in the vision of this team. pic.twitter.com/JfQotu7l72
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) March 16, 2023
“We’re not done; we’re going to have some more [moves]. We have to do a little bit, make a little bit more responsible or reasonable signings right now because of where we’re at. But sometimes, you get your best deals and you get your best players, contributors, from that.”
If anything can be gained from listening to Thursday’s press conference, it is that these signings, among others, put the Bucs in a lot better position to remain competitive in what should be another tight division race next season.
Besides the Brady-sized hole on the roster, there will not be too much outgoing talent on the roster that cannot be replaced by more affordable, younger options through the draft and further player development. As Licht mentioned during the NFL Scouting Combine, it will be more of a “restock“ than rebuilding a roster that has been a contender in recent seasons.
There are still areas to address of course, such as safety, offensive tackle, and outside linebacker, to name a few. If the upcoming NFL Draft can inject impact players at these positions, and if all of the changes across the coaching staff and key positions pan out, the Bucs will be an exciting group to watch in 2023. Excitement has already started to build after their successful efforts to keep some of its homegrown talent in Tampa Bay.
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