$71M Pro Bowler could be ‘better than ever’ for Buccaneers

If you are part of the group of people who believe there is a vast conspiracy that is keeping NFL teams from posting the actual height and weight of their players on rosters in the hopes that the players will feel better about that height and weight … then you’ve come to the right place.

Dan Pompei of The Athletic confirmed that Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman Vita Vea is still only around 347 pounds — the weight he’s been listed at for years — while ultimately confirming he’s been closer to 367 pounds for a while.

The good news is that this slimmed-down version of the 6-foot-4 former Pro Bowler could produce incredible results in 2024.

“Vita Vea could be better than ever in 2024,” Pompei wrote. “At 29 years old, the seven-year veteran is entering the sweet spot of his career with a new look after losing a significant amount of weight during the offseason while training with former teammate Ndamukong Suh. Vea is listed at 347 (he claims this is his current weight), but probably weighed closer to 367.”

Vea also plays for big money. He signed a four-year, $71 million contract extension in March 2022 and will make $16 million (2024), $17 million (2025) and $18 million (2025) over the next three seasons.

Injuries and weight seem linked for Vea

Vea was selected at No. 12 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Washington after winning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2017, but injuries have been a consistent problem throughout his career.

Through six NFL seasons, Vea has played in every regular season game for the Buccaneers just once, in 2019. He also played in 16 of 17 games in 2021, the only year he was selected to the Pro Bowl. He played in a career-high five games in 2020 but returned for the playoffs and played a key role in the Buccaneers’ run to the Super Bowl.

“The Bucs have wanted to downsize (Vea) for some time,” Pompei wrote. “In addition to being potentially faster and more explosive, Vea could also be healthier. He has missed games over the past three seasons due to toe, groin, chest, calf, foot and knee injuries.

Vea’s path to a healthier version of himself may have been encouraged by his play over the past two seasons. He had career-highs for sacks the past two seasons, with 6.5 in 2022 and 5.5 in 2023, and had a career-high 43 tackles in 2023 despite missing two games. He also had a career-high two forced fumbles in 2023.

Young players turn to Vea for leadership

Where Vea’s influence on the Buccaneers could be most pronounced is in his influence on the younger players on the roster — especially with Calijah Kancey, a 2023 first-round pick.

If Kancey and Vea are both healthy and on the field for Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers’ interior defensive line could become one of the most formidable in the NFL.

Kancey only played in 10 games as a rookie due to injuries, but was dominant at times with 4.0 sacks and 9.0 tackles for loss. He also came up big in an NFC Wild Card win over the Philadelphia Eagles with 4 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 1.0 TFL and had a pressure that led to a safety.