Tampa Bay took a step toward securing its starters beyond 2021 on Monday by picking up defensive tackle Vita Vea‘s fifth-year option.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported the news on Monday. Vea’s fifth-year option means he will play in Tampa through 2022 and will earn $7.638 million that year.
The #Bucs exercised their fifth-year option on DT Vita Vea.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 26, 2021
Bucs general manager Jason Licht talked about doing that earlier in the month during an April 1 press conference.
“He plays a very pivotal role in our defense. When he’s in there, a lot of things happen for not just him, but everybody else around him,” Licht said.
Vea played in the first five games in 2020 and had 10 tackles and two sacks before missing the rest of the regular season due to a broken ankle. He returned in time for the NFC Championship game where he played 33 snaps. He also played 31 snaps in Super Bowl LV.
“The day we found out he was going to come back and play, it was a very big day for all of us,” Licht said in the press conference. “Very exciting day — coaches, scouts, players, owners, everybody. We were all very excited.”
The Bucs drew critics years before when they took Vea at No. 12 in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Washington after trading down according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. Vea has proved valuable otherwise with 73 tackles and 7.5 sacks amid 34 games played in three seasons.
The Bucs noticed Vea’s absence in the run defense last year after his injury. Tampa gave up 3.98 yards per run without Vea after allowing 2.95 yards on average per ESPN Stats & Information via ESPN’s Jenna Laine.