Buccaneers Could Have New Look With $71 Million Nose Tackle

Vita Vea

Getty Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Vita Vea sacks Lamar Jackson.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have invested big in nose tackle Vita Vea, who has been one of the NFL’s most respected interior defensive linemen for the majority of his career.

Vea may be investing in his own future by changing his body to become a more durable player after missing multiple games with injuries each of the last two seasons.

What will that investment look like? Buccaneers’ coaches have intimated several times that it pertains to weight loss — Vea has been listed at 6-foot-4 and close to 350 pounds since his rookie season in 2018.

Tampa Bay Times reporter Rick Stroud posted on X in April that Bucs’ defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers suggested Vea may have a different look this season.

“I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag … wait until you see him,” Rodgers said.

Tampa Bay head coach Todd Bowles added to that while speaking with Bucs Nation.

From Bowles on Vea: “(Vea) is having a great offseason … We look for him to come back stronger and faster and quicker … We’ve talked about it for a long time. He’s finally taking it to heart … He’s really making the strides and the changes necessary.”

Vea, 29, should have plenty of motivation to take care of his body — he signed a 4-year, $71 million contract extension in Jan. 2022 that would bring his career earnings to close to $100 million if he plays through the final year of the deal in 2026.

Vea’s Rise to Dominance in NFL Trenches

Vea is one in a long line of interior linemen on both sides of the ball who were selected by Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht in the last decade who have become dominant NFL players, including offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs.

Vea was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year at Washington in 2017 and was selected by the Buccaneers with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft.

He battled injuries as a rookie and missed three games with a calf strain then started all 16 games in 2019. He only played 5 regular-season games in 2020 after he broke his leg and ankle in Week 5 against the Chicago Bears but returned to play in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers and in the Buccaneers’ win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Vea has been at his most dominant the last three seasons — he made his first Pro Bowl in 2021, had a career-high 6.0 sacks in 2022 and a career-high 2 forced fumbles in 2023.

To put Vea’s play in stark perspective, he had 7.5 sacks through his first three seasons and has 16.0 sacks over the last three seasons.

Bucs Have Talent, Youth to Build Around Vea

If Vea’s career continues to thrive into his 30s, he may have the Buccaneers’ 2023 draft to thank for it and two picks in particular with defensive end Calijah Kancey (No. 19 overall) and edge rusher YaYa Diaby (No. 82 overall).

Just like Vea, Kancey was held back by a calf injury for the first part of his rookie season but came on strong down the stretch with 4.0 sacks and 9 tackles for loss in just 10 games. Diaby led the Buccaneers with 7.5 sacks.

“I learned a lot from Vita, just being in the room with him and being on the field with him,” Kancey told USA Today’s Luke Easterling in April 2024. “My first day, I actually took a rep with him and he told me everything to do before we even got out of the huddle. I’m like, ‘Damn, it’s that easy?’ That just let you know what type of guy he is. He’s on top of everything — he knows the formation, he knows what to expect, he knows the person you’re going against because he’s been in the league and he’s (gone) against everybody.

“It was really a plus for me. Going into this year, it’s (about) really following his steps and being a sponge towards him because he does everything the right way.”

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