Wide receiver Jaelon Darden has his first NFL contract.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Darden, a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, to a four-year deal on Wednesday. This came less than a week after Darden first set foot in the AdventHealth Training Center to prepare for last weekend's rookie mini-camp.
The Buccaneers are now more than halfway through the process of getting their 2021 draft class under contract. Last Thursday, fifth-round linebacker K.J. Britt, seventh-round cornerback Chris Wilcox and seventh-round linebacker Grant Stuard all signed their rookie deals. Still to go: first-round outside linebacker Joe Tryon, second-round quarterback Kyle Trask and third-round offensive lineman Robert Hainsey.
Tampa Bay selected Darden out of North Texas with the 129th-overall pick in the draft after sending a sixth-round pick to Seattle in order to move up eight spots in the fourth round. Darden finished his career as the Mean Green's all-time leader in receptions (230), receiving yards (2,782) touchdown catches (38), capping his four-year tenure with 1,190 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2020.
Darden will also get an opportunity to win the Buccaneers punt and kickoff return jobs. He averaged 11.9 yards per punt return as a freshman and took one for a touchdown, then was good for 12.4 yards per runback as a sophomore.