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.
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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.
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.
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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.