TAMPA, Fla. -- After a flurry of salary cap-saving moves last week, the Buccaneers are re-signing one of their top free agents in cornerback Jamel Dean, who will stay in Tampa on a four-year deal worth $52 million, sources told ESPN.
Dean's new contract comes on the heels of the Bucs restructuring contracts for defensive tackle Vita Vea, wide receiver Chris Godwin, cornerback Carlton Davis III, center Ryan Jensen and receiver Russell Gage agreeing to take a pay cut. Left tackle Donovan Smith, running back Leonard Fournette and tight end Cameron Brate were also released. These moves helped the Bucs clear the $55 million they were over the cap.
After three seasons of working his way into the mix in the Buccaneers' secondary, Dean snagged a top-two role in 2022, starting 15 games while finishing with 2 interceptions and 8 pass breakups.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Dean, who turned 26 in October, allowed 386 yards as the nearest defender -- fifth fewest among players with a minimum of 60 targets. He also allowed a 46.6 completion percentage. He finished the season with a fractured big toe.
Dean has the length and top-end speed to disrupt throwing windows in zone coverage or match down the field against vertical concepts. He fits best as an outside one-third defender in a zone scheme, where he can use his backfield vision to break on the ball.
The Bucs selected Dean in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft out of Auburn. With his 6-foot-1 frame and 4.30 40-yard dash -- the second-fastest time at the NFL combine that year -- Dean immediately became one of the Bucs' most physically gifted members of their defensive backfield, earning the third cornerback spot in his rookie season.
In four NFL seasons, Dean has 7 interceptions and 41 pass breakups in 57 games with 38 starts. He has missed only nine games.
That he reached this level is even more impressive considering that he suffered a torn ACL in 2013 and torn meniscus in 2014 while at Ohio State. Afterward, the OSU medical staff did not believe his knee would be able to withstand playing further at the collegiate level, which led to Dean's transfer to Auburn, where he was sidelined for the 2016 season after another knee surgery.