TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers upgraded their struggling offensive line, trading for six-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins instead of offering a contract to free agent Richie Incognito.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the Bucs have closed the door on the prospect of giving one of the players at the center of the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal a chance to resume his career.
After acquiring Mankins in exchange for second-year tight end Tim Wright and an undisclosed draft pick on Tuesday, coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht said Incognito remains an “option” if they decide to make more changes to an overhauled line that will begin the regular season with four new starters.
“We try to not to talk about putting a period behind many things. Everything is ongoing. If a player is available out there, there’s still possibilities,” Smith said. “But we like our football team where we are right now. We’ve made a lot of improvements. We feel like we’re in pretty good shape going into the season.”
The deal came less than 24 hours after the Bucs met with Incognito to try to determine if the 31-year-old who’s coming off serving a suspension for his role in last season’s bullying scandal might be an answer to their problems at guard.
Smith described Incognito’s visit as “informative,” adding that the 2012 Pro Bowl selection with the Dolphins was able to answer “all of the questions I had” in the face-to-face meeting.
While it’s unclear what will happen with Incognito moving forward, Smith and Licht stressed they felt fortunate to be able to add a player the caliber of Mankins.
“He has a history of a certain type of play in the league,” Smith said, adding that the 10th-year pro will bring leadership on and off the field.
“We got better, kind of simple as that,” the coach added. “I like the direction our football team is heading.”
Mankins was a first-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2005 and has been selected for the Pro Bowl each of the past five seasons. He appeared in two Super Bowls and started all 130 regular season games and 17 postseason games he’s played in during a nine-year stay with New England.
“It’s very sad. He’s been here for a long time,” Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis said.
“I’ve only been here for a couple of months, but Mank is known around the league as being one of the best offensive linemen in the game,” the cornerback added. “He’s proven that, and he’s done it for a long time.”
Revis played with Tampa Bay last season, so he’s familiar with what New England is getting in return.
Wright joined the Bucs as an undrafted free agent in 2013, starting eight games and finishing with 54 receptions for 571 yards and five touchdowns.
Despite a productive rookie year, Wright became expendable after the Bucs signed veteran tight end Brandon Myers in free agency and then selected Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round of the draft.
“He’s great, man. He started for us down in Tampa Bay. … We’re getting a solid player who can catch, who can run and run great routes,” Revis said. “He was a wide receiver coming in and they switched him to tight end. He has a lot of speed at the tight end position.”
The Bucs will enter the season with at least four new starters on the offensive line, including both guards. Oniel Cousins and Patrick Omameh were listed as the starters before the trade for Mankins. Tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith joined the team in free agency.
Freelancer Mike Shalin in Foxborough, Massachusetts, contributed to this story.
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