The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made several additions early in free agency designed to bolster an underperforming defense. On Sunday, the team brought back one of the regulars who did live up to expectations on that 2015 squad.
The Buccaneers confirmed on Sunday evening that they had agreed to terms with safety Chris Conte, who played last season on a one-year deal after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears. Originally a third-round pick by the Bears in 2011, Conte has once again agreed to a one-year contract.
Tampa Bay's free agency additions on defense have hit the obvious needs at cornerback and defensive end with the Friday signings of Brent Grimes and Robert Ayers. That said, the safety position could have become a position of need if not for the Bucs' efforts to bring back its own. Before agreeing to terms with Conte, who had become an unrestricted free agent last Wednesday, the team also re-upped with potential unrestricted free agent Keith Tandy and gave a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Bradley McDougald.
Tampa Bay's secondary struggled for much of the 2015 season but Conte proved to be a bright spot. He played in 14 games with 13 starts and record 79 tackles, two interceptions, six passes defensed and two forced fumbles. In five NFL seasons, he has amassed 310 tackles, 11 interceptions, 27 passes defensed and four forced fumbles.
Conte's signing a year ago reunited him with his original head coach in Chicago, Lovie Smith. The Buccaneers dismissed Smith at the end of the 2015 season, hired former offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to be the new head coach and brought in former Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith as the new defensive coordinator. Despite the staff maneuvers – and presumably a significant change in defensive philosophies – the Buccaneers believed that Conte could once again be a valuable contributor.