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Bucs Add J.R. Sweezy to Offensive Front

Posted Mar 10, 2016

Tampa Bay's first outside signing on the young 2016 free agent market is former Seattle guard J.R. Sweezy, who has started 49 regular season games and 10 playoff contests over the past four years.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a 22-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback, and as of Wednesday they have one of the NFL's highest-paid running backs. It makes sense that they would now focus on protecting the former and opening holes for the latter.

READ: 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT SWEEZY

On Wednesday evening, the Buccaneers announced the signing of former Seattle Seahawks guard J.R. Sweezy to a five-year contract. The deal, which was finalized just hours into the 2016 free agency period, adds an experienced NFL starter to a Tampa Bay offensive line that recently lost Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins to retirement.

The 6-5, 298-pound Sweezy played defensive end at North Carolina State but converted to offense after arriving in Seattle as a 2012 seventh-round pick. In the four years since, he has started 49 games, including 46 of a possible 48 at right guard the last three seasons. Sweezy also started all 10 of Seattle's playoff games over the past four years, including Super Bowls XLVIII and XLIX.

Since Sweezy became a full-time starter in 2013, he has helped the Seahawks' offense lead the NFL over the last three years with an average of 150.4 rushing yards per game. Seattle also has the league's best yards-per-carry figure over that span, at 4.71, as well as 44 rushing touchdowns. Sweezy certainly has experience blocking for one of the NFL's top running backs, as he helped open holes for Marshawn Lynch, a Pro Bowl selection in both 2013 and 2014.

NEWS: BUCS RE-SIGN DOUG MARTIN

Sweezy adds depth and competition to a crew that was the Buccaneers' most pleasant surprise in 2015. Even with rookies Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet starting at left tackle and right guard, respectively, and late signees Gosder Cherilus and Joe Hawley moving into the starting five, Tampa Bay still got excellent results from its blockers. The Bucs ranked second in the NFL in yards per carry (4.75), fifth in rushing yards per game (135.1) and eighth in sacks allowed per pass play (4.8%). The addition of Sweezy, even without Mankins' return, gives the team plenty of experienced veterans to surround such young potential standouts as Smith, Marpet and third-year man Kevin Pamphile.