Buccaneers stocked up on leadership

Vincent Jackson, in his first season with the Bucs, adds some much-needed veteran leadership. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

TAMPA, Fla. -- When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went out and spent huge money on free agents Carl Nicks and Vincent Jackson back in March, part of the logic was to acquire unique physical talents.

“I would say specifically those two guys are two-time Pro Bowlers," general manager Mark Dominik said during a recent training camp visit. “Those guys just don’t hit the market very often. That’s the aggressiveness we went out of the chute with. We said, 'It’s a rare chance to get two guys that have been multiple Pro Bowl players and that just doesn’t happen in free agency.' Usually, those guys get locked up with their clubs and stay there forever."

But pure talent wasn’t the only thing the Bucs were looking for when they signed Nicks and Jackson. The Bucs were the youngest team in the league the last two seasons and a lack of leadership became a big problem as the team lost its final 10 games last season. The fact Nicks played on a Super Bowl champion in New Orleans and that Jackson’s San Diego teams were always at least in playoff contention made them even more attractive. They know how to win and that could help in the locker room.

“We also looked at it from a leadership aspect and that’s a big part of the reason we’re here," Dominik said. “Same with (backup quarterback) Dan Orlovsky and (tight end) Dallas Clark. We’ve been trying to do that across the board, to not only increase the talent of the football team, but to add some leaders as well. Just about every room has a guy that has that trait now. The running back room, that’s where we’re young, but that’s where I thought hiring (running backs coach) Earnest Byner was important because he certainly has played the position and knows it well.’’

Nicks said he didn’t have to make a concentrated effort to be a leader with the Saints because New Orleans already had so many veterans. But Nicks said he’s embracing a leadership role with the Bucs.

“We are a young team and I’m kind of looked at as the veteran and this is my fifth year,’’ Nicks said. “It’s kind of a different role for me. We’re a young team and we’ve got a lot of talent, but it’s got to come together and our attention to detail has to be second to none and our preparation has to be the best.’’

Nicks and Jackson didn’t have to walk into the building and tell their teammates they were leaders. Their resumes were enough to put them in leadership positions.

“Whenever you can get a champion in here, it’s always good,’’ guard Davin Joseph said. “Those are two championship-quality guys. They’re guys that have been there and done that already and to bring their experience here is very important to our improvement and our growth.’’