Bucs sign S Chris Conte, DT Henry Melton to 1-year deals

Safety Chris Conte (left) and defensive tackle Henry Melton both have a history with Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith as part of the Chicago Bears.

Two signees added Thursday by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a distinct Chicago flair.

The Bucs inked two free agents to one-year deals, safety Chris Conte and defensive tackle Henry Melton, both of whom have a history with coach Lovie Smith as part of the Bears. Conte comes to Tampa Bay after playing from 2011-14 in Chicago. Melton, most recently of the Dallas Cowboys, was part of the Bears from 2010-13.

"Well, obviously, Henry was there in Chicago when I came in as a rookie, and I just remember him immediately kind of taking me aside and he was just a guy that kind of looked after me when I first got there and we became close, became friends," Conte said to reporters in Tampa. "He’s a guy that’s going to give everything he has on the field. He’s going to rush the passer, so it makes my job a lot easier."

Conte, 26, had 52 starts in 57 games with the Bears and earned 231 tackles, 21 passes defensed, nine interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. His three interceptions last season in 12 games matched a career-high total from the 2013 campaign.

His most recent season wasn’t without health hardship, though. Conte dealt with injuries to his back, both shoulders, right eye and there were also concussion issues. The Bears selected the California product in the third round, 93th overall, in the 2011 draft.

"It’s a contact sport, so injuries happen, but I’m 100 percent healthy now, and I’m going to do everything I can to stay healthy," Conte said. "And a lot of that happens in the offseason with preparing, lifting, just being a smarter football player about the way I hit people, too. So I’ll do everything I can to prevent injuries, but I also have to realize that it’s a part of the game, so it comes with the sport."

Melton, 28, entered the NFL with the Bears as a fourth-round pick, 105th overall, from Texas in 2009. He has 101 tackles, 20 1/2 sacks, five passes defensed, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles in 64 career games (35 starts). His most decorated season came in 2012 when he had six sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl. He had a career-high seven sacks in 2011.

Last season, in his lone year with the Cowboys, Melton had 15 tackles and five sacks in 16 regular-season games.

"Honestly, I thought they were a good team," Melton said of the Bucs. "It’s just how football is. We had a few games in Chicago I remember where, a couple games can go your way or they can’t. If you have some guys to finish it off, and if you find some guys to make that last play at the end, that’s what’s going to be the key.

"I saw a lot of potential in this team, and they’re real close. They kept telling me they lost a lot of games by a few points. And that’s how it is. Everyone is trying to win games in this league and everyone’s good. So if we get some more of those wins that they missed out on last year, I think we’ll be in good shape."

Meanwhile, the addition of Conte could mean the end of Dashon Goldson’s time with the Bucs. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs are shopping the veteran safety, who never appeared to be a snug fit within Smith’s Tampa-2 scheme. Cutting Goldson would save Tampa Bay up to $4 million in cap room.

The signings of Conte and Melton bring the Bucs’ free-agent haul to three. On Wednesday, they announced the addition of linebacker Bruce Carter, formerly of the Cowboys, to a four-year contract.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.