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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Smith in the Fold

The Buccaneers’ swift draft-choice signings continued on Tuesday with the inking of third-round cornerback Dwight Smith


On Tuesday, CB Dwight Smith became the fifth 2001 draft choice to come to terms with the team

On Monday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager Rich McKay expressed his belief that the process of signing the team's draft picks would be a quick one. The team seemed confident that eight of its nine selections - excluding first-rounder Kenyatta Walker – would be under contract by the end of this week.

Presumably, the only potential obstacle to that goal would be protracted negotiations with the Bucs' next-highest pick, third-round cornerback Dwight Smith.

Obstacle removed.

After agreeing to terms with four of the nine draft picks on Monday, the Buccaneers announced late Tuesday afternoon that Smith had signed a four-year deal. As is team policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Smith, for one, appreciated the quick pace of the negotiations, as he was eager to get the business end of the game behind him. "Now I can look forward to camp," he said on Tuesday after signing his contract at One Buccaneer Place. "They said we were going to take care of business, and that's what we did."

Smith and his agent forwarded the idea of a four-year deal, which the ballhawk from Akron believes will keep him with one of the league's elite squads for the foreseeable future.

"In the next four years, at least, we should be in the hunt every year to make the Super Bowl and to win it, so it should be a good time," he said. This year, Smith hopes to earn playing time in the Bucs' deep secondary and is almost certain to make an impact on special teams.

Smith's contract follows Monday's pact with fifth-round guard Russ Hochstein, sixth-round fullback Jameel Cook, sixth-round defensive end Ellis Wyms and seventh-round safety Than Merrill. All four of those deals were for three years.

Four picks remain unsigned: Walker, the 14th overall pick in April's draft, fourth-round safety John Howell and a pair of seventh-rounders, tight end Dauntae' Finger and defensive end Joe Tafoya. Though Smith's was the only announcement by the end of business hours on Tuesday, indications are that additional deals could be nearing completion.

As a senior at Akron in the fall of 2000, Smith tied for the NCAA lead with 10 interceptions, earning MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. Though he jumps to the NFL from a small-school background, the Buccaneers have had success with that formula in their recent history, plucking Donnie Abraham from East Tennessee State in the third round in 1996 and watching him quickly develop into one of the league's best cornerbacks. Further, Smith was a finalist for the 2000 Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back.

In four seasons at Akron, Smith racked up 163 tackles, 15 interceptions (three returned for touchdowns), six forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. He also returned kickoffs on occasion for the Zips, finishing with a 21.7-yard average on 38 career runbacks.

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