The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were extraordinarily busy adding talent to their roster during the first day of the NFL's 2012 free agency period. At the end of that first day of activity, the team also affected a roster move of the opposite variety.
Early Wednesday evening the Buccaneers announced the release of veteran Jeff Faine, the team's starting center for the majority of the past four seasons. Faine, an unrestricted free agent signing during the 2008 offseason, appeared in 51 games, all starts, during his tenure with the team.
"I appreciate the leadership Jeff has provided to our franchise, both on and off the field," said General Manager Mark Dominik. "He has been a true professional during his time here. We wish him all the best and are confident he will have continued success in the future."
In 2008, his first year with the club, Faine helped the Buccaneers offense rack up 5,456 yards, the highest single-season total in franchise history.
"I'd like to thank the Buccaneers for giving me the chance to play for my hometown team four years ago," said Faine. "[This] move is bittersweet, but I leave in great health, excited and energized for my next opportunity. Although our record wasn't what any of us wanted it to be, I'll look at my time in Tampa with fond memories and thankful for the many friendships made – especially the camaraderie on the offensive line with Donald [Penn], Jeremy [Zuttah], Davin [Joseph] and Jeremy [Trueblood]. I look forward to seeing Josh Freeman and some of the other young talent become bright stars in this league."
The move comes on the heels of two significant offensive line maneuvers over the past two weeks. On March 5, the Buccaneers re-signed the versatile Zuttah, who otherwise would have become an unrestricted free agent on March 13. On Wednesday, Tampa Bay landed one of the most coveted players on the open market, signing All-Pro guard Carl Nicks to a five-year, $47.5 million contract. Nicks gives the Buccaneers two of the three 2011 Pro Bowlers at guard, joining Joseph in the starting lineup.
With Pro Bowlers set to start at both guard positions, Zuttah will presumably move to center. The tackle positions are occupied by Pro Bowler Penn on the left side and Trueblood, who was re-signed prior to the 2011 season, on the right side.