The Tampa Bay Buccaneers appeared as if they simply bypassed the first wave of free agency and went right into the second (maybe third?) wave after signing defensive tackle Henry Melton and safety Chris Conte on Thursday.
Both talked about what influenced their decisions in signing with the Bucs. It was Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith.
“Yeah, I mean, me and Lovie, he brought me in when I was a converted running back and saw me and groomed me,” Melton said about his success under Smith in Chicago. “Him and (Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator) Rod Marinelli groomed me into a pretty dominant under tackle and as soon as he heard that I might hit the market he was definitely one of the first people to get in contact and I came out here and I had to make it happen.”
Conte referenced other coaches and players when discussing what influenced his decision.
“Even me and (Tampa Bay cornerback) Alterraun Verner, we grew up together,” said Conte. “So talking with him it’s almost like a dream come true to come play for these guys. Just the relationships that I have with Coach Smith, with (cornerbacks coach) Coach Gill Byrd, it’s something that you don’t come across every day. Going back to high school, college, these are special people that you don’t come across and they make you want to play harder for them and I knew once they left Chicago that I was going to do everything I could to play for them again. And once this opportunity arose I would be stupid not to jump at it.”
Conte has struggled throughout his career. Both he and Melton signed one-year deals and in the NFL these types of deals mean you have to prove your worth to your newest team.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” Conte said. “It’s a defense that I know, that I can come in and be effective right away. It’s an opportunity for me to play fast. I don’t have to learn a new system. And I’m just going to do everything I can to get on the field and improve myself and I think the one-year deal for me is an ability to do that and show these coaches that I belong here and deserve to be paid like a top guy eventually.”
As for Melton, he says he still has some “juice” left and wants to prove that.
“I just wanted to really show what I can do again,” Milton said. “I still got some juice and I just wanted to come here and help turn this thing around and prove I can get it done.”
If Melton and Conte get through camp and onto the 53-man roster, they will have to show they are worth the Buccaneers’ time and money. Their track record has been questioned by many and have created many detractors.
Accepting their one-year deals is a nice start to proving all the doubters wrong.