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4:10 PM ET

  • Jenna LaineESPN Staff Writer Close
    • Covered the Buccaneers since 2009
    • Joined ESPN in 2016

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers narrowly missed the playoffs in 2016, but that 9-7 season went a long way in helping lure free agents DeSean Jackson and Chris Baker to Tampa Bay.

They were watching closely as their former team, the Washington Redskins, were fighting with the Bucs for a playoff spot late in the season.

"[We] were kind of like, they would lose and we would lose; we would win and they would win," Jackson said. "Seeing and keeping up with the playoff race as a Redskin last year, and Baker can tell you this — we were trying to do everything and anything we could to kind of get ahead of these dudes."

Added Jackson: "We would lose one day; they would win. We were like, ‘Damn,’ kept putting ourselves behind the eight ball."

The Bucs were officially eliminated Jan. 1 and the Redskins were ousted the following day en route to an 8-7-1 season that put them one spot below the Bucs in the regular-season NFC standings. The New York Giants and Detroit Lions advanced to the playoffs but the Bucs were able to finish on a high note, beating the Carolina Panthers 17-16 in Week 17 for their first winning season since 2010.

"To be able to see the Buccaneers — they’ve obviously made a drastic turn in where they’re going and where they’re heading to — to have my addition along with my fellow teammate Baker … to have these two personalities come to a team like this and continue what we started and what they’re doing, I think it’s a plus-plus win for everybody," Jackson said.

Baker, who had high praise for defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and is friends with defensive end Robert Ayers, was most impressed by the Bucs' no-quit mentality.

"This team always fought no matter what," Baker said. "This team always fought and was always in games. I really like their attitude here. … I think they're a team that's headed in the right direction."

For general manager Jason Licht, now headed into his fourth season with the Bucs, it's taken some time for Tampa Bay to become an attractive destination for free agents, but it finally feels that way at the negotiating table.

"It truly is; this year more than ever, guys really wanted to be here," Licht said. "It makes it a lot easier when this is their top choice. When you're on a team where it's not their top choice, but they would go if the money was right, then you find yourself bidding against a lot of suitors and having to play that game. Now they were both rewarded, and they both got very good deals, but they both wanted to be here and that makes it a lot easier."

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