Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Gholston believes he will become impact pass rusher

Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire

Buccaneers defensive end Will Gholston never has been much of a pass rusher. During his four years in the league he has never had more than three sacks in a season and has a total of just 10 to his name.

That’s why the five-year contract extension Gholston signed with the Bucs on Monday will pay him an average of $5.3 million per year and is loaded with more than $9 million in incentive clauses.

It’s not a bad contract at all, but if all goes as Gholston plans, he will soon outplay that contract and not only earn all of the incentives in it but force the Bucs to tear it up and give him a new one.

You see, Gholston believes he has the ability to be more than just the base-scheme run-stopping specialist that his contract suggests he is and one of his career goals going forward is to prove that.

“My whole goal is to become an elite pass rusher,’’ Gholston told reporters during a conference call on Monday. “I wouldn’t label myself as just a run defender.

“I feel with the opportunities I’ve had to rush the passer I’ve progressed and progressed and progressed and hopefully that means that in the next few seasons, I’ll become an elite pass rusher.

“I mean, it’s a forward-passing league but you have to stop the run because you have to run (to set up) the pass, but I want to be out there on third down rushing too, and it’s really up to me to get there.’’

Even though he was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year his final season, Gholston never was projected to be an elite-level pass rusher. Coming out of Michigan State four years ago he lacked the explosion, flexibility and closing burst to consistently get to the passer, scouts said.

Since then though, Gholston says he’s grown considerably as an athlete, a football player and a person and he’s confident he can bring more to the Bucs than his new contract suggests he can.

“I came into the league a little knucklehead, but I’ve matured a lot,’’ he said. “I’ve become a man. Everyone here has helped me grow. The coaches, everyone, and my play has grown, too.’’

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