The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went deep-sea fishing on Tuesday and caught one of the biggest fish in the free agent talent pool.
Making the big splash many of their fans hoped for, the Bucs landed former Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson, considered by many to be the top player in the market at his position.
Jackson, 29, signed a five-year contract just hours after the start of free agency. The deal is worth $55.555 million, according to agent Jonathan Feinsod, and calls for Jackson to receive $36 million in guaranteed payouts the first three years, including $26 million the first two years.
Jackson gives Tampa Bay the deep threat its passing offense has been lacking.
Jackson, a two-time Pro Bowler, has 36 receptions of 25 yards or more the past four seasons, 10th best in the league. His average of 18 yards per reception the past four years is the best among players with 200 or more catches during that span.
"Very happy to have Vincent Jackson as a teammate,'' Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said in a Twitter post. "Great addition to our young explosive offense. Big target for my man (QB Josh) Freeman.''
A second-round pick of the Chargers out of Northern Colorado in 2005, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Jackson has 272 catches for 4,754 yards and 37 touchdowns in 91 career games. He has three 1,000-yard receiving seasons the past four seasons.
The only year Jackson did not reach the 1,000-yard plateau was in 2010, when he played in just five games because of a contract holdout and a three-game league suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
The suspension stemmed from a series of traffic violations, including two arrests for drunk driving, the second of which occurred on Jan. 6, 2009, and resulted in Jackson being placed on probation in Febuary 2010 for five years.
Jackson also had some issues on the field, the most notable of which came during a Jan. 17, 2010, divisional playoff game against the Jets in which he received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for kicking a challenge flag. Jackson finished that game, though, with seven receptions for 111 yards to become the first receiver that season to post a 100-yard game against All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Jackson, who was designated the Chargers' franchise player for the 2011 season, made news off the field later that year as well as one of 10 plaintiffs in an antitrust lawsuit filed against the NFL during the lockout.
Jackson wound up signing the franchise tender, which gave him a salary of $11.4 million in 2011 season. He paid the Chargers back by catching 60 passes for 1,106 yards and nine touchdowns.
Those numbers, which included a personal best of 141 yards and three touchdowns against the Packers on Nov. 6, earned Jackson his second Pro Bowl berth and made him one of the top commodities in this year's free-agent class.
Several teams, including the Bears and Redskins, were expected to make a run at Jackson, but the Bucs quickly became the lead suitor.
The Bucs, who went into free agency with more than $42 million in salary cap space, previously expressed a desire to land a big-play option at the receiver spot to enhance their offense.
Tampa Bay also expressed a desire to add players at cornerback, linebacker and safety, but their attention on the first day of free agency appeared to focus primarily on the offensive side of the ball.
Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks, whose attempts to re-sign with the New Orleans Saints fell through, arrived in Tampa late Tuesday night to visit the Bucs, agent Ben Dogra said. Nicks, among the top free-agent offensive linemen, is a two-time Pro Bowler and a member of The Associated Press' first-team All-Pro team in 2011.
A variety of internet reports, all of which cited unnamed league sources, suggested the Bucs had also expressed interest in several other free agents, including Giants quarterback David Carr, Seahawks tight end John Carlson, Lions cornerback Eric Wright and Chargers running back Mike Tolbert.
Tobert's agent, Joel Turner, said at least 10 teams called about Tolbert on Tuesday, though he refused to name them. Turner would not confirm reports saying Tolbert was planning to visit the Bucs.