After two seasons with the Tennessee Titans and a brief stay in Detroit, Jovan Haye is back where he first got his NFL career off the ground.
On Monday, the seventh-year defensive lineman signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, returning to the team for which he played from 2006-08. The Buccaneers had a spot on the 53-man roster after placing cornerback Aqib Talib on injured reserve due to his ongoing hamstring struggles.
The 6-2, 280-pound Haye will help the Bucs with depth at defensive tackle after the team has already lost Gerald McCoy and John McCargo to injured reserve and seen starter Brian Price limited recently due to an ankle sprain. A versatile lineman, Haye entered the league as a defensive end but saw his career take off after he came to Tampa midway through 2006 and moved inside to under tackle.
Haye originally entered the NFL in 2005 as a sixth-round pick by the Carolina Panthers. After spending most of his rookie season as a game-day inactive, playing in just two games, Haye was released by Carolina just prior to the 2006 season and immediately signed to the Cleveland Browns' practice squad. He spent most of two months in Cleveland before the Bucs plucked him off the Browns' practice squad and signed him to their 53-man roster.
Buccaneer scouts had identified Haye as a good fit for their three-technique tackle position and indeed he saw immediate action in that role. He would play nine games in that first abbreviated Buccaneer season, pitching in with 25 tackles.
Haye followed that with a strong offseason in 2007, his first with the Buccaneers; in fact, he would earn a starting job on the defensive line by the beginning of the season. Haye started all 16 games in his first full campaign in Tampa and recorded 97 tackles, 6.0 sacks, three passes defensed, one forced fumble and four fumble recoveries. He led all Buccaneer linemen with his tackle total and tied for second in the sacks category behind leader Stylez G. White (8.0). Haye started 14 of the 15 games he played in for the Buccaneers in 2008, as well, adding 40 more stops and two tackles for loss.
After the '08 season, Haye signed with the Titans as an unrestricted free agent and he immediately stepped into their starting lineup. He saw action in 15 games with 14 starts in his first season in Tennessee, contributing 32 tackles and a half-sack. He stepped into a reserve role the following season for Tennessee but still pitched in with 31 stops and a pass defensed.
The Titans released Haye near the end of the 2011 preseason. He did not appear on an NFL roster until December, as the Lions signed him on December 9. He played in Detroit's Week 14 win over Minnesota, making two tackles, but then was released the following week.
A native of Jamaica, the 29-year-old Haye moved to the United States when he was six but did not start playing football until his junior year in Sunrise, Florida. He played his college ball at Vanderbilt, appearing in 35 games with 34 starts and amassing 149 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and one interception. Haye entered the draft after his junior season and was the 189th player selected overall.
Talib will finish the season on injured reserve after a frustrating month of December in which he tried to fight through a hamstring strain. Talib aggravated the injury five plays in the Buccaneers' Week 13 games against Carolina and had to sit out the rest of that contest, plus the following weekend's game in Jacksonville. He managed to return for last Saturday night's game against the Cowboys but once again aggravated the same injury just seven plays into the game.
In his fourth NFL season, Talib started all 12 games at left cornerback for the Buccaneers prior to his injury. He finished the season with 42 tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions, 13 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. He returned both of his picks for touchdowns, a 28-yarder in the season-opener against Detroit and a 27-yarder in Week 12 against Tennessee.
In four seasons, Talib has played in 53 games with 41 starts and racked up 188 tackles, 17 interceptions (four of them returned for touchdowns), 51 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He is tied for eighth in team history with his 17 interceptions.