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Source: Bucs finalizing deal to hire Smith

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Published:   |   Updated: January 2, 2014 at 01:04 AM

TAMPA - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers moved into the fast lane in their drive for a new head coach.

The Bucs were in the process Wednesday night of finalizing the details of a contract to make Lovie Smith their next coach, according to a Buccaneers source familiar with the negotiations.

The deal is for four years with a team option for a fifth, the source said.

The Bucs moved quickly in their pursuit of Smith, interviewing him on Tuesday, one day after Greg Schiano was dismissed after posting an 11-21 record in two seasons.

Smith has Tampa roots, serving on Tony Dungy's Buccaneers staff as linebackers coach from 1996-2000.

“I talked to Lovie just a little bit ago, and I'm very excited for him and very happy for the Bucs,'' Dungy said late Wednesday night.

“He knows how to win in this league and he knows the lay of the land here. So, it's a great choice because they have a very good defensive foundation here already, and he's going to help get that going. I know that more than anything these guys they have here are going to love playing for him and he'll get that team chemistry built and get them going in the right direction.''

An announcement could come as early as today.

Smith, 55, was head coach of the Chicago Bears for nine seasons, compiling an 81-63 regular season mark. He was 3-3 in postseason play, including a 2006 Super Bowl appearance in which Smith's Bears lost to Dungy's Colts.

Smith's final playoff appearance with the Bears came in 2010, when Chicago lost to Green Bay in the NFC title game.

Smith was fired by the Bears after a 10-6 finish in 2012. He did not coach in 2013.

“I'm so excited for Lovie and the Bucs,'' former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said. “It means so much to me personally - it's hard to express it in words. It's hard not to feel the franchise just got better tonight.''

The Bucs, who finished 4-12 this season, are also seeking a general manager after firing Mark Dominik on Monday.

Reports early in the week suggested Smith had lined up former University of California head coach Jeff Tedford to be his offensive coordinator and former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier as his defensive coordinator.

Smith would be Tampa Bay's third coach in six seasons and the 10th in franchise history.

“That's awesome news,” former Bucs safety John Lynch said. “I think the world of Lovie. Obviously, the offensive coordinator hire will be critical in Tampa. He's even keel, but there's a fire inside that burns within him. I'm thrilled. In my view, it's a great day for the Buccaneers.''

A defensive-minded coach, Smith was criticized in Chicago for failing to build a productive offense to pair with one of the league's best defenses.

In Tampa, Smith would inherit a defense that ranked 17th in the 32-team league and an offense that ranked last after starting rookie quarterback Mike Glennon for the final 13 games.

Schiano was hired in 2012, but a promising 6-4 start to his tenure quickly faded. After losing five of the final six games in 2012, the Bucs opened 2013 with eight straight losses.

rcummings@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @RcummingsTBO

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