The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been busy this week with the on-field workouts allowed in Phase II of the NFL's offseason workout program. The players took a break from that program on Wednesday, but upstairs the work continued at One Buccaneer Place.
On Wednesday, the Buccaneers announced the signing of rookie defensive tackle Akeem Spence to a four-year contract. That marked the third straight day that at least one of the team's 2013 draft picks has officially received his first NFL pact, and it put the team within shouting distance of being done with the process. On Monday, deals were reached for fifth-round defensive end Steven Means and sixth-round running back Mike James, and on Tuesday fourth-round defensive end William Gholston put pen to paper on his contract.
The only players on the Bucs' 90-man offseason roster who remain unsigned are second-round cornerback Johnthan Banks and third-round quarterback Mike Glennon. The odds are overwhelmingly good that the team will avoid a lengthy rookie holdout from training camp for the 19th consecutive year, a fact aided by the rookie salary cap structure introduced by the new collective bargaining agreement in 2011.
The 6-1, 307-pound Spence is considered a strong candidate to win the starting nose tackle job vacated by Roy Miller. At the University of Illinois, he started all 38 games in which he appeared over three seasons, seeing action at both the nose and three-technique spots. An extremely strong lineman who can take on double teams, he also has a quick first step that gives him pass-rush potential up the middle.
Spence recorded 186 tackles, 3.5 sacks 17.5 tackles for loss and 26 quarterback pressures during his tenure with the Illini. He had a career-best 72 tackles in 2012 and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. He played his prep football in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.