The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have acquired veteran nose tackle Steve McLendon in a trade with the New York Jets.
The Buccaneers received McLendon and a seventh-round pick in the 2023 draft in exchange for a 2020 sixth-round selection. The deal was finalized on Tuesday when McLendon passed a physical in Tampa. The Buccaneers inherit the one-year contract extension for 2020 that the Jets gave McLendon in 2019. He is due to become an unrestricted free agent next March.
The Buccaneers also activated rookie wide receiver John Hurst from injured reserve on Monday. He fills the open spot on the 53-man roster; McLendon is exempt from counting against that limit until he clears the COVID-19 protocols. In addition, the Buccaneers re-signed cornerback Mazzi Wilkins to the practice squad. No additional moves were needed as the Bucs also had an open spot on that unit.
The trade for McLendon, who has started 90 NFL games including all six for the Jets this season, adds proven depth to a Buccaneers defensive line that recently lost starting nose tackle Vita Vea to a leg fracture that will keep him out for the rest of 2020. Rakeem Nunez-Roches moved into the starting lineup in Vea's place in Sunday's win over Green Bay and the Buccaneers also gave 24 defensive snaps to Jeremiah Ledbetter, who was elevated from the practice squad for that game.
McLendon (6-3, 310) has played the last five seasons in New York after spending his first six years with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He originally joined the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Troy in 2009 and, after a rookie season spent mostly on Pittsburgh's practice squad, made the active roster in 2010 and appeared in seven games.
McLendon became a regular starter in Pittsburgh in 2013 and has since opened 89 games over the last eight years, including 50 of the Jets' last 52 contests. Overall, he has played in 144 games and contributed 248 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 41 tackles for loss, 28 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two passes defensed. This season, McLendon has logged 14 tackles.
The 2019 campaign with the Jets was one of McLendon's best, as he started all 16 games and recorded 2.5 sacks and seven quarterback hits along with 36 tackles, 10 of them for losses.
Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles is familiar with McLendon's talents, as he was the Jets' head coach from 2015-18. Bowles was at the Jets helm in 2016 when the team signed McLendon as an unrestricted free agent. In his first season under Bowles' guidance, McLendon tallied a career-high 3.5 sacks despite playing in just 11 games.
The Buccaneers and Jets swung their deal well before the NFL's 2020 trade deadline. The deadline this year is Tuesday, November 3.