The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have been seeking a veteran offensive guard for much of the offseason, on Tuesday filled that need, signing unrestricted free agent Matt Lehr, who played the past two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.
The six-year veteran is a solid in-line blocker and figures to vie for the No. 1 job at left guard, where incumbent Dan Buenning is still recovering from knee surgery that cut short his 2006 season. Davin Joseph, the team's first-round pick in 2006 and regarded by many as a potential Pro Bowl-caliber player, is the starting right guard.
Versatile blocker Sean Mahan, who filled in at left guard when Buenning was injured and who would have vied for a starting job, signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent.
Lehr, 27, has 48 career starts among his 69 appearances, and that includes starting all 16 games with Dallas in 2003 and 15 games with Atlanta in 2005. Lehr was suspended for four games last October for a violation of the NFL's steroid policy. He returned from the sanction to reclaim his starting job on a Falcons' line that helped the team leading the NFL in rushing for a second straight year.
The former Virginia Tech standout was the Cowboys' fifth-round choice in the 2001 draft. He has played in Dallas (2001-2003). St. Louis (2004) and Atlanta (2005-2006).
Tampa Bay officials were tentatively scheduled to meet this week with unrestricted free agent offensive lineman Cooper Carlisle, a seven-year veteran from the Denver Broncos. It is not known how the addition of Lehr will affect that meeting.
Details of the contract Lehr signed in Tampa Bay were not yet available.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.