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Jackson expected to be in high demand

Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson is a wanted man. In fact, he might be one of the most wanted men in the NFL. And the list of those that covet him is only expected to grow.

About a half-dozen teams called to ask of Jackson’s availability prior to the trade deadline last month, and the Bucs are bracing for a greater flurry of inquiries shortly after the season ends.

The reason for all the interest in the veteran wideout should be obvious. Even at 31, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Jackson has all the skill and ability to be a team’s No. 1 pass catcher.

Even if he’s not.

Statistically, Jackson ranks second on the Bucs behind Mike Evans in pass receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, which is precisely why interest in him is expected to grow.

With an emerging star on their hands in Evans, the Bucs are seen as a team that might be willing to move Jackson, who has a $9.78 million salary in 2015 that could be deemed exorbitant.

Jackson, though, is not your typical No. 2 receiver. The Bucs still treat him like a No. 1, having targeted him with 92 passes this year, nearly double the times they targeted Evans.

So do opposing defenses. Much of Evans’ recent success came as a result of single coverage he faced while defenses opted to double-cover the more accomplished Jackson.

That’s something the Bucs might want to keep in mind when all those Jackson suitors come calling. Something else the Bucs have to consider is Evans’ development.

Evans might look like a near-finished product, but he’s not. If you include his redshirt freshman season at Texas A&M, this is only his fifth year of organized football, and fourth in which he’s actually played.

And while it’s evident Evans is a fast learner, there are many nuances associated with route running, pass catching and reading coverages that Evans has yet to learn or perfect.

It’s partially the responsibility of Evans’ coaches to make sure he perfects those techniques. But Jackson, a willing mentor on and off the field, might be the best teacher Evans will ever have.

That’s an added value the Bucs might not get in another player, especially if that player turns out to be a rookie selected with the draft pick the Bucs get in a deal for Jackson.

Granted, that pick will almost certainly be a high one. It’s hard to imagine the Bucs letting Jackson go for anything less than a second-round pick, or maybe a combination involving at least a third.

But there is a greater value in keeping Jackson. Though his numbers look like those of a second receiver, he’s still plays like a No. 1. And the only thing better than having one No. 1 wideout is having two.

Old home week

Coach Lovie Smith isn’t the only Buccaneer with emotional ties to today’s opponent. Like Smith, quarterback Josh McCown, safety Major Wright and cornerback Isaiah Frey spent time with the Bears and were later dismissed by them.

Bucs GM Jason Licht had a similar experience with the Bears.

Licht was the Cardinals’ director of player personnel two years ago when he was named one of two finalists for the Bears GM job that came open just prior to Smith’s firing following the end of the 2012 season.

But Licht, who met Smith and talked with him for about an hour during that interview process, was passed over for Phil Emery, whose Bears teams are 12-16.



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Neil S. Schwartz

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Jonathan Feinsod

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