Bucs to sign Colts' LB June to three-year deal

Updated: March 18, 2007, 8:52 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Unrestricted free agent Cato June, one of the NFL's top "cover two" linebackers, is headed to the team that all but invented the scheme that helped make him a Pro Bowl performer.

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Linebacker Cato June is No. 11 on ESPN.com's list of the top NFL free agents on the market. Story

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June, who helped lead the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl XLI championship in 2006, on Saturday reached agreement with the Tampa Bay Bucs on a three-year contract. June visited with Bucs officials and coaches on Friday and the two sides struck a quick deal.

ESPN.com has learned that June will sign a three-year contract worth slightly in excess of $12 million. But the structure of the contract, negotiated by the Manhattan-based Sportstars agency, will all but mandate that the Bucs revisit it before the three years is up.

June was rated as the No. 11 player in ESPN.com's rankings of the top unrestricted free agents.

Securing an active linebacker like June, an excellent player in pass coverage, should boost a Tampa Bay defense that slumped to 17th in the league last season. The Bucs had rated among the NFL's top 10 defenses in nine of the previous 10 seasons. June will team with Derrick Brooks to give the Bucs two of the top coverage linebackers in the league.

It was key, given his skills-set, for June to land with a franchise that plays a "cover two" style and that goal was met with Saturday's deal. There was some speculation in the past few days that June might re-sign with the Colts, for whom he played the first four seasons of his career. Instead, he becomes the fourth starting linebacker to exit Indianapolis in free agency since 2003.

Mike Peterson signed with Jacksonville in 2003, Marcus Washington with the Redskins in 2004 and David Thornton with Tennessee in 2006.

June, 27, was a college safety at the University of Michigan, but the Colts, who selected him in the sixth round of the 2003 draft, quickly converted him to linebacker. He became a starter in only his second season with the team.

In four seasons, June has 379 tackles, including 100-plus tackles in each of his three years as a starter. He also has one sack, 10 interceptions, two forced fumbles and three recoveries. He struggled at times against the run in 2006, often missing tackles and not holding up at the point of attack, but still led the Colts with 142 tackles.

June was named to the Pro Bowl team after the 2005 season, a campaign in which he posted five interceptions.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com