- Associated Press - Thursday, March 10, 2016

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers called, J.R. Sweezy did more than listen.

The free agent guard exchanged several text messages with Jameis Winston and also talked to the young quarterback’s backup, Mike Glennon, before signing a five-year, $32.5 million contract.

“It just feels right,” the former Seattle Seahawks lineman, who addressed a need created by Logan Mankins’ retirement, said Thursday.

“Things are headed the right direction here and it’s just fun to become a part of it,” Sweezy added. “Everybody I talked to says we’re on the brink of something special here. When you have multiple guys talking about it - it’s real, something’s going on here. It’s something I want to be a part of.”

Sweezy, 26, joins the Bucs after spending his first four seasons with the Seahawks, starting 49 of 59 regular-season games and 10 postseason games in helping win a pair of NFC championships and one Super Bowl.

The signing comes less than a week after Mankins announced his retirement and one day after All-Pro running back Doug Martin re-signed for five years, $35.7 million.

“We identified J.R. early on as one of our top targets in free agency,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said. “He has all of the attributes we look for in an offensive lineman - tough, physical, smart, athletic - and he is a winner.”

Mankins was the starting left guard for the past two seasons after nine years with the Patriots. The Bucs began overhauling their offensive line two years ago when they traded for Mankins and signed center Evan Smith in free agency.

Licht and former coach Lovie Smith continued to retool in last year’s draft, selecting left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet in the second round. Both players became immediate starters as rookies.

Sweezy, a 2012 seventh-round draft pick of the Seahawks, was a defensive lineman in college at North Carolina State. He made the transition to offense as a rookie and was used exclusively at right guard.

The Bucs plan to use him as Mankins’ replacement at left guard. Sweezy doesn’t think the conversion will be as difficult as the change from defense to offense in Seattle.

“In my younger days, I may have not been able to do it. Switching from D-line to O-line was enough. Just being right-hand dominant, it was easier to start on the right side,” Sweezy said.

“But now I’ve been playing it for four years, and finally understanding and being comfortable with the position, I feel fully comfortable in being able to play left.”


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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