Outside linebacker Anthony Nelson, whose career has been on a steady upward trajectory since he was drafted four years ago, agreed to terms with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday to a new two-year deal. The Buccaneers originally selected Nelson in the fourth round of the 2019 draft, and he has increased his sack total every season, eventually emerging as a starter in the second half of the 2022 campaign.
Nelson stepped into the starting lineup at midseason last fall after Shaquil Barrett suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury. He finished with a career-high 5.5 sacks, tying for second on the team. He also forced a team-high three fumbles, two of which came on crucial strip-sacks in come-from-behind victories over Arizona and Carolina in Weeks 16 and 17 as the Bucs clinched the NFC South title.
"Anthony has been a valuable contributor to our football team since we drafted him, particularly over the past two seasons when he his emergence coincided with his increased playing time," said General Manager Jason Licht. "He is an extremely hard worker and possesses many of the attributes we look for in our players – smart, tough, dependable. We look forward to his continued growth here in Tampa Bay."
Nelson was limited to nine games and just 153 defensive snaps as a rookie by a persistent hamstring injury. He has played in all 53 games, including the playoffs, over the past three seasons, and in 2021 he had a late-season breakout on the way to a then-career-best 5.0 sacks. In all, he has played in 59 games with 12 starts, contributing 94 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, 23 quarterback hits, four forced fumnbles, two fumble recoveries and three passes defensed. A high-effort player with a non-stop motor, Nelson showed his durability late in the 2022 season when the Bucs' edge-rushing depth was severely depleted by playing every single defensive snap in three consecutive game.
Nelson is one of five members of the Buccaneers' 2019 draft class who became free agents on Wednesday, and the second to return to the fold. Cornerback Jamel Dean agreed to terms on a new four-year deal on Wednesday.