Extending Cameron Brate sends right message to young Bucs

Tight end Cameron Brate has 14 touchdowns over the past two seasons with the Bucs. AP Photo/Matt Ludtke

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed tight end Cameron Brate to a six-year extension on Monday. Here's a closer look at the signing:

Grade: A. It's a six-year deal worth $41 million, making him among the highest-paid tight ends in the league. His $18 million guaranteed is second most of any tight end in the league, behind only Charles Clay.

What it means: Anyone who watches the Bucs knows that Brate is one of quarterback Jameis Winston's most reliable red zone targets. He has caught 14 touchdowns the past two seasons, third most of any tight end in the league during that span and second most on the Bucs, behind only Mike Evans, whom the Bucs extended on a five-year deal Friday.

A former undrafted free agent out of Harvard, Brate has continued to work that way, staying late after practice. When the Bucs were dealing with second-round draft pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who was erratic both on the field and off, Brate was the model of consistency, catching every pass thrown his way, which is how he earned a starting role.

After Brate tied for a league-leading eight touchdown catches in 2016, he signed a $690,000 deal as an exclusive-rights free agent, and even when the Bucs selected O.J. Howard in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, Brate didn't complain and continued working.

Brate's signing sends a strong message to a young locker room -- that regardless of how you come into the league and even if you've been cut (as Brate was in 2015), you are valued. It also shows that if you keep working hard and are productive when it counts, you will be rewarded. On a team that had to weed out a few bad apples last year because their personalities didn't jibe with the rest of the locker room, it's important to reward players who do have the right attitude, and Brate fits that mold.

What's the risk: The only risk here is a situational one. They're financially invested in Brate long term, but they're also carrying former first-rounder Howard. Their roles are different, however. Brate is an H-back and not much of a blocker, while Howard is more of the complete tight end who can block and catch, making both players important parts of a Bucs offense that thrives off play-action. If they can make it work for the two of them, with Winston feeding both the ball, and there aren't any egos, it shouldn't be a problem.

But after compensating Brate and Evans on new deals, they still have to allocate space in the near future to re-sign middle linebacker Kwon Alexander and offensive linemen Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith, who will all be unrestricted free agents in 2019. But this is something the Bucs say they've anticipated for a long time. The same goes for Winston, although they'll likely want to see what Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota gets before re-signing Winston.