TAMPA — There was a time not too long ago when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had little interest in acquiring a high-priced player on the wrong side of 30.
That stance shifted in a hurry Tuesday as the Bucs bypassed controversial Richie Incognito and addressed their concerns at guard by acquiring six-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins from New England in exchange for second-year tight end Tim Wright and a fourth-round draft choice.
The deal was finalized hours after the Bucs met with Incognito, who was suspended by the Dolphins last season for his role in a bullying scandal that prompted a league investigation.
“(Mankins) is a tenacious player with a quiet type of toughness,’’ said Bucs GM Jason Licht, an executive with the Patriots from 2009-11. “As a defensive coach or a defensive player, you just don’t like to play against him.’’
Mankins, 32, was a first-round pick in the 2005 draft and has been a starter each of his nine seasons for coach Bill Belichick. A 3-time captain, Mankins is known for his versatility, smarts and physicality.
“Logan Mankins is everything we would ever want in a football player,’’ Belichick said. “It is hard to imagine a better player at his position, a tougher competitor or a person to represent our program. He is one of the all-time great Patriots and the best guard I ever coached.’’
Mankins was en route to Tampa Tuesday and Bucs coach Lovie Smith ruled him out for Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Redskins at Raymond James Stadium.
The Bucs have used an array of players at the guard spots during the preseason and Mankins is expected to step in immediately on the left side. Tampa Bay has sought help at that spot since Carl Nicks announced his retirement a month ago, on the brink of training camp.
Patrick Omameh is the listed starter at right guard heading into the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against Carolina, but the Bucs have been very impressed with second-year pro Rishaw Johnson, obtained from Kansas City last week in a trade.
The Patriots placed the franchise tag on Mankins in 2010, prompting the former Fresno State standout to sit out the first seven games of the season. He signed a 6-year, $51 million deal in 2011 that made him the highest-paid interior lineman in the NFL and Mankins is slated to make $6.25 million in base salary this season.
Wright, 24, excelled as a rookie out of Rutgers after signing with Tampa Bay as a free agent in April 2013. He finished second on the team last season with 54 catches for 571 yards and five touchdowns and was scheduled to earn $495,000 in 2014.
Tampa Bay has four tight ends remaining on its roster: Brandon Myers, Luke Stocker, second-round draft choice Austin Seferian-Jenkins and rookie Cameron Brate.
“We think Tim is a very good football player,’’ Licht said. “But it tells you we feel very good about the tight ends we have on the roster. We feel the return we got on the investment worked in our favor and (the Patriots) feel they got a good deal, too.’’
Belichick has a history of discarding popular veterans (Richard Seymour, Lawyer Milloy) and going with younger, cheaper alternatives,
The Bucs are banking that Mankins has several quality seasons ahead of him, opening holes for running back Doug Martin and keeping quarterbacks Josh McCown and Mike Glennon upright.
“We have a responsibility to our team and our fans to put the best possible football team on the field that we can,’’ said head coach Lovie Smith. “New England got a good football player in Tim Wright. But as a football fan and a football coach, I’ve watched Logan play for a lot of years. We got better, simple as that. This should definitely give us a boost.’’