S Dexter Jackson intercepted two passes in the first half of Super Bowl XXXVII
If the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hope to return to Super Bowl form, it certainly can't hurt to have their Super Bowl MVP back on the roster.
The Buccaneers took that step on Friday, re-signing safety Dexter Jackson, one of the heroes of the team's 2002 championship run. Jackson, who was a Buccaneer from 1999-2002 and then again for the second half of 2004, became an unrestricted free agent on March 2. He is the fourth player from that list to re-sign with Tampa Bay, joining fullback Jameel Cook, wide receiver Joey Galloway and tight end Dave Moore.
Jackson is a leading candidate to take over the starting safety position vacated by Dwight Smith, who signed with New Orleans on March 7. Though Smith played the strong safety position in 2004 and Jackson was a free safety during his first Buccaneer stint, the two positions are largely interchangeable in the Bucs' system.
The Buccaneers have bolstered their secondary considerably during the fourth week of free agency. On Tuesday, the team addressed the open nickel back position by signing former Falcon and Jaguar cornerback Juran Bolden.
Jackson first joined the Bucs as a fourth-round draft pick in 1999. After two seasons as a reserve defensive back and special teams contributor, he took over the starting free safety position in 2001 and immediately showed big-play capabilities, combining 78 tackles with four interceptions and 2.5 sacks.
The 6-0, 210-pound Jackson started all 16 games for the Buccaneers' top-ranked defense in 2002, recording another 86 tackles and three interceptions. He saved his best performance for the final game of the season, however, as his two first-half interceptions helped the Bucs build a 20-3 halftime lead en route to a 48-21 victory over Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Jackson became an unrestricted free agent a month after the Super Bowl and quickly signed with the Arizona Cardinals. He was an instant hit in Phoenix, recording career highs in both tackles (105) and interceptions (six) while adding two forced fumbles and 11 passes defensed. Jackson developed a bulging disc in his back during the 2004 offseason, however, and had to undergo months of rehab. He did not play again for the Cardinals and was eventually released on October 13, signing with the Buccaneers a month later.
With starting free safety Jermaine Phillips out with his own injury, Jackson subbed in frequently on defense as he rounded back into full health. He eventually appeared in six games and started one, opening the season finale against his former team and totaling 25 tackles, one forced fumble and one pass defensed on the season. In his one start against the Cardinals, Jackson racked up eight tackles and a forced fumble.
Overall, in six NFL seasons including his abbreviated 2004 campaign Jackson has recorded 325 tackles, 13 interceptions, five forced fumbles, 2.5 sacks and 38 passes defensed. He hails from Quincy, Florida and was a two-year starter at Florida State.