TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made a trade for guard Logan Mankins in an attempt to address their greatest concern on the offensive line.
The Bucs gained Mankins in a deal Tuesday with the New England Patriots for tight end Tim Wright and a reported fourth-round pick in 2015, though Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht declined to confirm the pick’s value. The Patriots selected Mankins, a six-time Pro Bowl player, as the 32nd overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft. A Fresno State product, he started in all 130 games played for the Patriots. His tenure there included 17 postseason game appearances and two Super Bowls played. He played 1,126 snaps last season, which ranked third-most among guards.
"It’s been something we’ve been talking about since all of these different things since, I guess, the first week of camp," Licht said. "So it kind of came to fruition today. So we’re very excited to acquire a player like Logan."
The Bucs had been searching for answers at guard, which has been thin throughout the offseason and preseason. After the team parted ways with oft-injured guard Carl Nicks on July 25, Tampa Bay began training camp with a rotation of Jamon Meredith, Oniel Cousins, Patrick Omameh, Kadeem Edwards and Jace Daniels at the position, though Omameh and Cousins have received most of the first-team looks of late. Meredith has received more work at tackle lately, and the Bucs gained guard Rishaw Johnson in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs last Thursday in exchange for safety Kelcie McCray. Daniels was waived Sunday as Tampa Bay began trimming its roster to meet the 75-man limit by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
"We got better," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said of the trade. "It’s kind of as simple as that. Along with some of the improvements that we’ve made, I like the direction that our football team is heading, and this should definitely give us a boost."
Controversial guard Richie Incognito visited with the Bucs on Monday for about five hours, a development that showed how desperate Tampa Bay had become with its options before the final preseason game Thursday night against the Washington Redskins at Raymond James Stadium. Licht said Incognito remains an option for the Bucs, though the trade with the Patriots makes it more unlikely that Incognito’s addition here is imminent.
"I wouldn’t put an end to that," Licht said. "But that’s just one of several options that are out there right now."
Smith said he was pleased with where the Bucs stood after Mankins’ addition. Smith said he gained valuable information from his visit with Incognito, but he’s encouraged by Tampa Bay’s direction with its current roster.
"We like our football team where we are right now," Smith said. "We’ve made a lot of improvements. We feel like we’re in pretty good shape going into the season getting ready for Carolina with this group that we have right now."
Wright, meanwhile, played in all 16 games for the Bucs last season. A starter in eight games, he had 54 receptions for 571 yards with five touchdowns. A Rutgers product, Wright joined Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent in 2013.
The deal has plenty of ties to former Bucs coach Greg Schiano. Wright played for Schiano at Rutgers and with the Bucs last year. Schiano remains close with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and during Schiano’s two seasons with Tampa Bay, the Bucs and Patriots scrimmaged together during training camp.
Last season, during Schiano’s final year with the Bucs, Wright became a de-facto No. 2 wide receiver behind Vincent Jackson. Jackson led the Bucs with 1,224 yards receiving, but no one else had more than Wright’s 571.
Still, with four other tight ends on roster — Brandon Myers, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Luke Stocker and Cameron Brate — the Bucs felt confident enough to make the move to add Mankins. Suddenly, their situation at guard looks less dire.
"It tells you that we feel very good about our three tight ends that we have on our roster right now," Licht said. "Actually, we like the fourth tight end on our roster right now too. I guess it speaks about that. We think that Tim is a very good football player. … We feel that the return on the investment obviously worked in our favor, and they probably feel that they got a pretty good deal too."