DT Chris Hovan helped the Bucs' run defense improve from 19th to sixth in 2005
Chris Hovan found a place to re-energize his NFL career. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers found a linchpin to their much-improved run defense.
Both sides knew a good thing when they found it.
That's why Hovan and the Buccaneers came to a very quick agreement to continue their partnership. Early Saturday morning, less than an hour into the NFL's 2006 free agency period, the hustling defensive tackle signed a new deal to remain a Buccaneer. As is team policy, terms of the contract were not released.
Reports of Hovan's intentions to stay with the Buccaneers had been in the news for days, but he did not actually re-sign until after midnight on Friday. In fact, he couldn't. Due to a lesser-known provision in the collective bargaining agreement that related to his 2005 contract, Hovan had to first become a free agent before he could re-sign with the Buccaneers. Obviously, given the timing of his finished contract, Hovan was more than eager to remain in Tampa, and it was certainly a case of mutual respect.
After five seasons in Minnesota, Hovan signed with Tampa Bay on the first day of April last spring. Though he was an under tackle for the Vikings, Hovan started all 16 games at nose tackle in 2005 and finished with 64 tackles, most among Buccaneer linemen. His stout play in the middle was a major factor in the improvement of Tampa Bay's run defense, which finished sixth in the NFL in 2005 after ranking 19th the year before.
A first-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2000, Hovan has played in 93 NFL games and has 307 career tackles, along with 17 sacks, two forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and 12 passes defensed. He was an AP All-Pro second-team choice in 2002, and a first-team pick by Sports Illustrated, after recording 73 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Hovan's last campaign in Minnesota was his unhappiest, as he was replaced in the starting lineup by season's end. Thus his next stop, in Tampa, was an opportunity to restore the reputation he had built as one of the league's most productive defensive tackles.
Tampa Bay's defense, which has finished among the league's top 10 for an incredible nine straight years, claimed the top overall ranking in 2005. That unit is built around such long-time Buc standouts as Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber, but it featured two new and key components last year. Hovan stepped in at nose tackle, replacing the departed Chartric Darby, and Juran Bolden took over the nickel back role that had been filled primarily by Mario Edwards in 2004.
Both Hovan and Bolden easily fulfilled the Bucs' expectations in 2005, but both were originally signed to one-year contracts, which meant the team was in danger of losing them and having to fill those holes again. Instead, the Bucs have managed to re-sign Hovan and Bolden before they even tested the market, and they appear well on the way to keeping most of last year's division-winning roster intact.