From 2015-17, Greg Gaines and Vita Vea teamed up to give the University of Washington a dominant defensive front, with each player notching 9.5 sacks in that span. Now that duo can resume rushing the passer together, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope the pairing proves even more prolific on the NFL level.
On Thursday, the Buccaneers announced the signing of Gaines, an unrestricted free agent defensive lineman, to a one-year contract. Gaines played his first four NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Rams but is now reunited with his former Huskies teammate, bolstering an interior line crew that has been significantly thinned by free agency. Of the seven down linemen who took snaps for the Buccaneers in 2022, five became free agents last Wednesday, though Patrick O'Connor (97 defensive snaps) has since returned to the team.
A fourth-round pick (no. 134 overall) in 2018, Gaines developed into a productive inside rusher and a strong run-stopper for the Rams, particularly after he moved into the starting lineup in 2021. Over the past two seasons, he has contributed 91 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 24 quarterback hits. For the Super Bowl LVI-winning Rams in 2021, Gaines produced a career high 4.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits in the regular season, then added 0.5 sacks, 12 tackles and two passes defensed in the playoffs.
Over his first four seasons overall, Gaines played in 55 games with 29 starts, postseason included, and recorded 137 tackles, 11.0 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hits.
Vea and Gaines can also compare Super Bowl rings. A year before Gaines had three tackles in the Rams' Super Bowl LVI victory, Vea and the Buccaneers captured Super Bowl LV at the end of the 2020 campaign.
In addition to O'Connor, Will Gholston, Akiem Hicks, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Deadrin Senat all became unrestricted free agents last week. Nunez-Roches has since signed with the New York Giants.
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