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Sunday, Jul 24, 2016
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs, safety Conte agree on one-year deal

TAMPA — You do need two hands, but just barely, to count the number of free agents that Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht has signed and asked back for a second season.

On Sunday, safety Chris Conte became a member of that exclusive club.

Less than a year after signing a one-year, $1.5 million, prove-it contract with the Bucs, Conte agreed to terms on another one-year deal, according to agent Ryan Tollner.

Financial terms of the contract were not immediately available but the deal does give the Bucs the option of keeping their two starters in the deep secondary together.

Fellow safety Bradley McDougald, who started 15 games while Conte started 13, is a restricted free agent. The Bucs, however, have tendered McDougald a contract that should keep rival teams from signing him away.

Conte and McDougald were part a secondary that allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 70 percent of their passes, including 31 for touchdowns last year, but they were arguably that group’s best playmakers.

Conte finished the season ranked fourth among all Buccaneers in tackles with 78, tied for third in tackles for loss with six, tied for third in pass breakups with six and tied for the lead among defensive backs with two interceptions.

McDougald ranked third on the team in tackles with 88 last year, including two tackles for loss, and recorded two interceptions, including a last-second game-saving pick of a Matt Cassel pass that preserved a 10-6 victory over the Cowboys on Nov. 15.

“We still like Bradley McDougald,’’ Licht said recently in breaking down the team’s situation at the safety position. “We still view him as a young player with upside.

“And Chris Conte did some good things for us last year, and he has a familiarity with our new defensive backs coach, Jon Hoke, who was his coach (for four years) in Chicago.’’

The Bucs also have Major Wright under contract and they recently re-signed Keith Tandy, who recorded 21 tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack while starting in place of an injured Conte (knee) during the last two games last season.

Conte is so far the only member of the group of players signed during the early stages of the 2015 free-agency signing period to be retained by the Bucs.

Of the players from the 2014 class of free agents, only center Evan Smith, cornerback Mike Jenkins, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, wide receiver Louis Murphy and cornerback Alterraun Verner were brought back for a second season.

Conte’s signing comes just two days after the Bucs signed free agent defensive end Robert Ayers to a three-year, $21 million deal and cornerback Brent Grimes to a two-year, $16.5 million contract.

 

rcummings@tampatrib.com

Twitter: @RCummingsTBO