Buccaneers were 'counting down the minutes' to sign Jordan Whitehead in free agency

It's safe to say the Bucs had Jordan Whitehead near the top of their free agency wish list.
Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Philadelphia Eagles v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

A lot has been made about the big moves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made this offseason. There weren't any splashy external moves, rather the Bucs used most of their money on bringing back their own guys.

This meant Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans returned, but also Lavonte David, Chase Edmonds, and others. It's a bold strategy to run back a roster that barely won nine games, but the Bucs outperformed expectations and seem to be building something special in the post-Tom Brady era.

Reunions happened in free agency as well. Not only did the Bucs bring back guys on the roster, but Jason Licht brought back guys who used to be as well Jordan Whitehead was the big signing the Bucs made, reuniting with one of the players who helped the team win a Super Bowl four years ago.

It was a move the team has been thinking about ever since Whitehead left for the New York Jets back in 2022.

Buccaneers had Jordan Whitehead at the top of their free agency list

At the NFL Owner's Meetings down in Orlando this week, top brass from all over the league have begun discussing how certain deals that were made this offseason came together. Licht talked about the Bucs trading Carlton Davis III, but he also touched on why the team brought back Whitehead.

Licht wasn't shy about how badly he wanted his former safety back, noting that the countdown to re-signing him started the moment he left Tampa Bay.

"It kind of seemed like since the day we let him out of the building that we were counting down the minutes until he came back," Licht said. "When he came back, there wasn't a person in the building that wasn't smiling."

Whitehead slowly emerged as an ideal candidate for the Bucs this offseason, and he'll slide right back into a safety room that badly needs him. Tampa Bay lost Mike Edwards and Logan Ryan in free agency last year, and Ryan Neal was a disaster trying to replace them.

Things weren't all bad, as undrafted rookie Christian Izien was a revelation. Whitehead will get to impart his knowledge on the youngster while also reuniting with Antoine Winfield Jr., who was franchise tagged and set for a massive contract extension.

Licht's excitement over bringing Whitehead back fits the theme not only of reunions this offseason but how much mutual respect there is with the guys he's drafted. A lot was made about how Mike Evans was the first pick Licht made as general manager and the relationship resulted in the future Hall of Famer returning to Tampa Bay rather than testing the market.

The same can be said for Baker Mayfield, who Licht didn't draft but cultivated a relationship with that led to a deal being made ahead of the legal tampering window opening.

Whitehead returning not only helps the Bucs on the field, but it serves as a reminder that Tampa Bay isn't the afterthought that so many critics and experts still seem to think it is.

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