The 2015 free agency period is still five days away, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are taking care of a little roster business during the lead-up.
On Thursday, the Buccaneers re-signed veteran cornerback Mike Jenkins to a one-year deal. The team also extended the necessary qualifying offers to exclusive rights free agents linebacker Danny Lansanah and Bradley McDougald to ensure their return in 2015.
McDougald has already had an opportunity to sign his offer, which then serves as his one-year contract for 2015. Lansanah is expected to do the same when he gets the opportunity.
The NFL's new league year – and thus, restricted and unrestricted free agency – begins next Tuesday, March 10, at 4:00 p.m. ET. In the meantime, teams are free to negotiate with their own pending free agents, as was the case with Jenkins. Both Lansanah and McDougald were almost certain to return, since exclusive rights free agents may only negotiate with their original team as long as that team extends the necessary qualifying offer prior to the start of free agency.
All three players re-signed Thursday could figure prominently in the Buccaneers' defensive efforts in 2015. Jenkins, who played his college football at nearby South Florida after starring as a prep in Bradenton, returned to his home town on a one-year deal as an unrestricted free agent last March. He competed with then second-year man Johnthan Banks for the starting right cornerback job and was expected to see significant playing time before his season ended abruptly with a pectoral injury in Week One.Lansanah went from a relatively obscure pickup off the New York Jets' practice squad in December of 2013 to a very versatile and valuable role in the Bucs' defense in 2014. Making his first NFL start at the age of 29, Lansanah eventually opened 11 games and became the first player in franchise history to start at least one contest at three different linebacker positions in the same season. After ranking third on the team with 78 tackles and second with three interceptions – including two returned for touchdowns – Lansanah is a prime candidate to start from Day One in 2015.
"Coming into this offseason, I just know I'm going to be called on a lot," McDougald said. "I have to show up and be more accountable."
McDougald is another rising player on the Bucs' defense, having gone from a 2013 waiver-wire claim to the starting lineup near the end of 2014. Tampa Bay's trade of safety Mark Barron to the St. Louis Rams at last year's deadline was motivated in part by the belief that McDougald could develop into a strong two-way performer in the secondary, excelling in both coverage and run support. In 15 games played and five starts, McDougald contributed 46 tackles, one interception and seven passes defensed.