DE Greg Spires (94) even excelled after moving inside to defensive tackle late last season
The Bucs kept one of their top defensive performers in the fold by inking defensive end Greg Spires (86 tackles, eight sacks in 2004) to a contract extension
Greg Spires had a career year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004. Thanks to a new contract formalized on Friday, it won't be his last season as a Buccaneer.
Heading into the final year of his original four-year contract with the Buccaneers, Spires was not scheduled to be a free agent in 2005. However, the two sides had worked hard to secure a new deal as the NFL's free agency period began. While the Bucs as policy do not release the length or terms of their player contracts, the new agreement does add years and likely gives the team additional breathing room under the 2005 salary cap. The agreement was first reported on Friday morning, but was not finished or confirmed by the team until the early evening.
Spires has been an outstanding contributor during all three of his seasons in Tampa, but he is coming off his best season in the NFL. The seventh-year defensive end finished sixth on the team in tackles (86) and second in sacks (8.0) while adding three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a pass defensed. Both his sack and tackle totals were career highs, with his 86 stops nearly doubling his previous high of 47 in 2002. In fact, Spires' 2004 marks very nearly equaled his combined statistics from 2002-03: 91 tackles and seven sacks.
A part-time starter during four seasons in New England (1998-2000) and Cleveland (2001), Spires has opened all 50 of the games he's played in as a Buccaneer (including playoffs). Last fall, he even gave the Bucs' defensive line a much-needed dash of versatility when he moved inside to play defensive tackle over the last three games. Spires was instantly productive in that role – the first time he had ever played defensive tackle – contributing 17 tackles and 2.5 sacks in those three games.
While a need to clear cap space has kept the Bucs out of the first wave of signings in free agency, which began league-wide on Wednesday, the team has done an excellent job of avoiding the roster cuts it didn't want to make. Spires, quarterback Brian Griese and fullback Mike Alstott have all come to agreement on deals that eased the Bucs' cap burden and kept them in Tampa for 2005.
Spires joined the Buccaneers in 2002 as an unrestricted free agent after his one season in Cleveland. He impressed in training camp and won the left end job from incumbent Marcus Jones, who was later injured and then released. Starting all 19 games (including playoffs) in '02, Spires rang up 47 tackles and 3.5 sacks as the Bucs marched toward Super Bowl XXXVII. In the Super Bowl, Spires was on the short list of MVP candidates after recording three tackles, one sacks and a pair of deflected passes, one of which led to an interception return for a touchdown.
In 2003, Spires missed the season finale with a shoulder injury but basically duplicated his 2002 efforts with 44 tackles and 3.5 sacks. His 2004 season was most notably for an up tick in his sack totals, but Spires is most valuable to the Buccaneers because he plays the run as well as the pass and is an intense, every-down performer.
Spires was originally a third-round draft choice of the Patriots in 1998. During his four seasons with the Patriots and the Browns, he played in 59 games and recorded 79 tackles, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, five passes defensed and 13.5 sacks. A four-year letterman at Florida State, he hails from Cape Coral, Florida.