When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers open training camp in less than two weeks, Brian Price will be battling for a starting spot on the team's defensive line. On Tuesday, Price made sure he wouldn't miss the beginning of that competition.
The Buccaneers announced late Tuesday afternoon that they have signed the rookie defensive tackle out of UCLA to a four-year contract. To make room for Price on the 80-man roster, the team released rookie guard Lee Grimes.
A high second-round choice, Price was the second of nine men drafted by the Buccaneers in April and the 35th player selected overall. Among all players taken with the first 60 picks in this year's draft, Price is the first to reach contract agreement with his new team.
"I'm glad my agent got the deal done, so now I can concentrate on having a great training camp," he said. "I'm looking forward to contributing to the Buccaneers' dominant defensive tradition."
Price joins five fellow Buccaneer draftees in signing with the team, following deals for third-round cornerback Myron Lewis, fourth-round wide receiver Mike Williams, sixth-round punter Brent Bowden, seventh-round linebacker Dekoda Watson and seventh-round defensive end Erik Lorig.
That leaves Tampa Bay management with just three 2010 draft picks still to sign: first-round defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, second-round wide receiver Arrelious Benn and seventh-round safety Cody Grimm. The Buccaneers got an early start on the process in June and, with the Price agreement, are still well ahead of the game.
The Buccaneers spent their first two picks in the draft on defensive tackles in an obvious attempt to build a more stout and athletic group on the defensive front. With 2009 third-round pick Roy Miller also in the mix along with returning veterans Ryan Sims and Dre Moore, the team expects to field an intense competition for the two starting interior spots this summer.
The 6-1, 303-pound Price figures to be in the thick of that competition and is considered capable of playing either under tackle (his primary college position) or nose tackle. In three seasons and 35 games with the Bruins, Price recorded 30 starts, 97 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 44.5 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, one interception and three passes defensed. He was an All-Pac 10 choice in each of the last two seasons after being an all-conference freshman honoree in 2007.
Last fall, Price started all 13 games for UCLA and racked up 48 tackles, 7.0 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one pass defensed. His 23.5 tackles was the third-highest total for all players in the nation in 2009 and he was chosen as the Pac 10 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year.
Grimes was not drafted this spring following his collegiate career at Texas A&M. He was signed by the Buccaneers as a rookie free agent on May 3.