Prior versions of 'Buccaneers Biographies' looked at defensive stalwart Ronde Barber and franchise face Josh Freeman. Both are perennially expected to draw considerable interest from fans, media, and opponents on the football field. Given the club's spendthrift ways, few expected a top play-making free agent to come to Tampa Bay with potential to outshine such teammates by seizing attention from those same parties.
Yet, the surprise addition of Vincent Jackson gives the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a chance to possess a true star. Though the Bucs have enjoyed many defensive icons over the years, the squad rarely boasted of a player with Jackson's game-changing abilities on offense. While receivers Mike Williams, Joey Galloway, and Keyshawn Johnson posted stellar campaigns, the team has long coveted a wideout who could dominate annually. Here is a look at Tampa Bay's newest weapon who hopes to do just that.
Signing a 5 year, $55.5 million contract with the Bucs in March, Vincent Jackson enters his 8th season as the best hope to transform one of the league's worst offenses. Long unhappy with the San Diego Chargers, the 29 year-old not only wanted to be compensated financially, but clearly desired freedom from the team with which a contract dispute caused him to miss half of the 2010 season.
Jackson attended high school in Colorado, but failed to gain attention from top college recruiters. Instead, strong grades enabled him to receive an academic scholarship to prestigious Columbia University. However, Jackson already harbored ambitions of stardom and stayed enrolled at Division I-AA Northern Colorado, where he competed in basketball and football. In addition to acclaim for kick returning, during his final 2 seasons Jackson amassed an eye-popping 144 receptions for 2,844 yards and 32 touchdowns.
The Chargers drafted the 6'5" stud in the 2nd round of the 2005 draft. While some scouts envisioned him as tight-end, San Diego instead broke the young player into their wide receiving corps. Serving as Philip Rivers' 3rd or 4th option, Jackson's career started slowly for his first 3 seasons. That changed during the team's playoff run in 2007, when the 3rd year player racked up 300 receiving yards en route to the AFC Championship Game.
Building on this success, Jackson became a primary option for the next 4 years, where he impressively posted 3 efforts of 1,000+ receiving yards and grabbed a total of 28 touchdowns. Named to the Pro Bowl in 2009 and 2011, he hoped to receive a long-term deal from the Chargers, but the team used its franchise tag to retain his services on an yearly basis. In fact, Jackson's frustrating experiences helped him serve as a plaintiff in litigation against the NFL during labor negotiations last summer.
Finally becoming a free agent after the 2011 season, Jackson was tabbed by many as the top available wide receiver. That list included the Buccaneers, who uncharacteristically out-bid the Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears to open the checkbook for the talented signee. The addition bolsters a club that ranked near the bottom of the league with only 17 total receiving touchdowns. Not only do the Bucs now possess a player who can nearly match that number himself, but Jackson will draw extra coverage to permit Mike Williams to improve on his disappointing sophomore campaign.
Unfortunately, an issue that Tampa Bay fans should consider is that Jackson must be mindful of Commissioner Goddell's strict player personnel expectations. With multiple DUI-related arrests during his career, the receiver was suspended in 2010 for violations of league policies. Playing for top dollars in Florida affords many benefits. New coach Greg Schiano must ensure that the good life does not bring about poor choices that would hurt Jackson's new team.
Besides a blocking tackle, a quarterback can have no better friend than a receiver who gets open. With the ideal combination of speed and size, Vincent Jackson can beat coverage and locate seams on a football field. Such skills have been all-too-rare rare for the Bucs and will be invaluable assets as 24 year-old Josh Freeman strives to bounce back from a sub-par 2011.
Yahoo! Sports, VincentJackson.com, FootballsFuture.com, Espn.com.
More by Jeff Briscoe from Yahoo! Contributor Network:
Jeff Briscoe is a writer who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. A loyal Tampa Bay Bucs fan, he co-hosts the Florida-based radio show, The Sports Train.
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