Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Bucs Bring Back Bolden

The Buccaneers didn’t wait to bring back one of their key free-agents-to-be, locking up nickel back Juran Bolden before he could hit the open market on Friday

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CB Juran Bolden had an interception in the Bucs' November win over Washington

Apparently, just as in 2005, a stressed salary cap is not going to prevent the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from pursuing success in 2006.

On Monday, four days before the beginning of free agency, the Buccaneers re-signed free-agent-to-be cornerback Juran Bolden. The move was an important one for Tampa Bay, as Bolden solidified the team's previously troublesome nickel back spot in 2005, his first year as a Buccaneer. Tampa Bay finished first in the NFL in overall defense and sixth in pass defense last year.

The 2006 league season starts on Friday, and with it a new salary cap that may require some payroll adjustment by the Buccaneers. The details of that cap situation are still up in the air as the owners and players try to forge a new collective bargaining agreement, but the Buccaneers will likely have to do some trimming to be in compliance with the new spending limit. That would seemingly to make it difficult to fulfill their admitted desire to retain such potential free agents as Bolden, defensive tackle Chris Hovan and kicker Matt Bryant.

Bolden, Hovan and Bryant were three key free agents the team added last spring on the way to defying expectations and winning the NFC South with an 11-5 record. All three were signed to one-year contracts, however, giving them access to the open market again this year.

And yet Bolden will be back in 2006. Along with starters Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly, he gives the Buccaneers perhaps the league's strongest set of cornerbacks. Those three combined for 222 tackles, 11 interceptions, three sacks and 47 passes defensed last year while helping to hold opponents to 183.1 passing yards per game.

Of those contributions, 42 tackles, two interceptions and nine passes defensed belonged to Bolden, who played primarily when the opposing offense was in multiple-receiver sets. The tackles marked a career high for Bolden, who had played seven previous seasons in Atlanta, Green Bay, Carolina, Kansas City and Jacksonville, as well as three years in the Canadian Football League.

Bolden's career NFL totals include 156 tackles, nine interceptions and 31 passes defensed. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he is one of the league's bigger corners and thus a valuable asset against the new wave of massive receivers in the NFL.

A Tampa native and a star at Hillsborough High School, Bolden starred at Mississippi Delta Junior College but was not drafted or signed by an NFL team in 1995. He played one season for the Winnipeg Bluebombers in the CFL before getting a shot with the Falcons in 1996. After two seasons in Atlanta, he split the 1998 season between the Falcons, Packers and Panthers, then landed in Kansas City in 1999. Bolden returned to the Bluebombers for the next two years, then resurfaced in Atlanta in 2002 and started 14 games over the next two years for the Falcons, intercepting seven passes. He signed as a free agent with Jacksonville in 2004 and was the Jaguars' primary nickelback that season.

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