Joe Hawley's career found a new foothold in Tampa, and now he's keeping his feet firmly planted at home.
On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced that they had agreed to terms on a new two-year contract with the eighth-year lineman. After two seasons with the Buccaneers, Hawley had become an unrestricted free agent last Thursday.
The Buccaneers first signed Hawley on September 14, 2015, a week after he had been released by the Atlanta Falcons. In the two seasons since, he has started 29 of a possible 31 games at center for Tampa Bay, including 15 contests last fall. Hawley first stepped into the starting lineup in Week Three of the 2015 campaign due to an injury to Evan Smith, then held onto that job, allowing the Buccaneers to use the versatile Smith as a spot starter at all three interior-line spots.
The top photos of C Joe Hawley from the 2016 season.
Originally a fourth-round draft pick out of UNLV, Hawley spent his first five NFL seasons in Atlanta, the last three (2012-14) under the direction of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, now the Buccaneers' head coach. He earned a starting spot in his second season, opening 12 games, but was limited to just six outings in 2012. After making seven starts in Koetter's offense the following season, he was in the opening-day lineup in 2014 but suffered a season-ending knee injury after four starts.
Hawley (6-3, 302), has spent his two seasons in Tampa snapping to 23-year-old quarterback Jameis Winston, the first player in league history to open his career with consecutive 4,000-yard seasons. Hawley was part of a strong O-Line in 2015 that paved the way for the league's fifth-best rushing attack.
Hawley was one of 17 players from the Buccaneers' 2016 roster who were scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the start of the new league year last Thursday. Six of those players have now chosen to return to the team. Defensive end Will Gholston and safety Chris Conte both re-upped before hitting the open market while Hawley, running back Jacquizz Rodgers, cornerback Josh Robinson and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga all reached UFA status before re-signing with the Bucs. Three of those 17 have signed with new teams: quarterback Mike Glennon (Chicago), wide receiver Russell Shepard (Carolina) and defensive tackle Akeem Spence (Detroit).