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Call It Round Eight: Bucs Sign 14 Undrafted Free Agents

Posted Apr 30, 2012

Among the promising prospects the Bucs signed after the seven rounds of the draft were Iowa State CB Leonard Johnson, Texas FB Cody Johnson and Rutgers G Desmond Wynn


The 2012 NFL Draft officially ended at 7:19 p.m. on Saturday when the Indianapolis Colts bestowed the title of Mr. Irrelevant on Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish, the 253rd and last player selected.  That was not even close to the end of the evening for the hard-working scouts and coaches in the draft room at One Buccaneer Place, however.

 

While wrapping up his own team's efforts over the three days of drafting on Saturday evening, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano said his staff was still upstairs "grinding away on free agents, some guys that we really like as players."

 

The results were as pleasing to Schiano and General Manager Mark Dominik as were the seven rounds of the draft proper.  Battling 31 other teams to lure the most coveted prospects not taking among the 253 picks is always an important part of the draft-weekend process, and in this case the Buccaneers were able to land 14 additional players to bolster the depth of the team's offseason and, eventually, training camp roster.

 

Among the players who agreed to join the Buccaneers as undrafted free agents were well-regarded Iowa State cornerback Leonard Johnson, Texas touchdown machine fullback Cody Johnson, huge Mississippi offensive tackle Bradley Sowell and a player with which Schiano is very familiar, Rutgers tackle Desmond Wynn.

 

Here's the entire list of the 14 undrafted free agents announced by the Buccaneers on Monday:

 

Pos.

Name

Ht.

Wt.

College

WR

Luther Ambrose

5-8

185

Louisiana-Monroe

LB

Ryan Baker

6-0

236

LSU

QB

Zach Collaros

6-0

183

Cincinnati

C

Chaz Hine

6-4

295

South Florida

FB

Cody Johnson

5-11

255

Texas

CB

Leonard Johnson

5-10

196

Iowa State

DT

Donte'e Nicholls

6-2

312

Tennessee State

WR

Tyler Shoemaker

6-1

213

Boise State

T

Bradley Sowell

6-7

316

Mississippi

S

Tramain Thomas

6-0

204

Arkansas

TE

Tyler Urban

6-5

249

West Virginia

G

Michael VanDerMeulen

6-7

304

Toledo

CB

Quenton Washington

5-10

195

South Florida

T

Desmond Wynn

6-6

303

Rutgers

 

Many analysts expected Leonard Johnson to be among the players drafted on the third day, when Rounds 4-7 were conducted.  The fact that he wasn't allowed the Clearwater native to choose his NFL destination, and he eagerly returned to his home team.  Described as a strong and compact defender with excellent instincts, Johnson intercepted six passes in his career at Iowa State and also showed promise as a kick returner.

 

Cody Johnson was used extensively in the Longhorns' rushing attack as a between-the-tackles bruiser but is expected to fit in best in the NFL as a lead blocker.  Though he rushed for 1,466 yards during his Texas career, Johnson's most impressive accomplishment were his 36 touchdowns, including at least six in each of his four seasons.

 

Sowell and Wynn will battle for reserve spots on the Buccaneers' offensive line, as will Hine and VanderMeulen.  Sowell was Mississippi's starting left tackle each of the last two seasons and a team captain in his senior campaign.  Wynn was a top performer in Schiano's program at Rutgers, starting at both right and left guard.

 

There are plenty of other storylines that could emerge from the Bucs' initial undrafted free agent haul.  As is often the case, there were a couple additions from nearby USF, including the Bulls' starting center in 2011, Hine, and a three-year starter at cornerback, Washington.  New Buccaneer running back Doug Martin, the team's second of two first-round picks, will welcome a college teammate and another member of Boise State's prolific offense in Shoemaker.  And the Bucs' obviously thorough scouting at West Virginia has yielded yet another Mountaineer, Urban, after the fifth and sixth rounds on Saturday produced LB Najee Goode and CB Keith Tandy.

 

Later this week, the 14 undrafted players signed by the Buccaneers over the weekend will join with the seven the team drafted from Thursday through Saturday to take part in Tampa Bay's annual post-draft rookie mini-camp.  In addition, the Buccaneers will bring in several dozen more players on tryout contracts in order to both flesh out the depth chart for practice and continue scouting for more talent.

 

With the NFL's recent announcement of expanded offseason rosters, the Buccaneers are allowed to carry up to 90 players during the spring and summer and into training camp.  Dominik indicated on Saturday that the Buccaneers would leave several spots open for the possibility of eventually signing some of the more promising tryout players to actual contracts after the weekend.

 

The 14 players signed by the Buccaneers after the draft were far from afterthoughts.  Dominik said on Saturday evening that he was excited with the group of undrafted free agents his team was putting together, and history has shown that several such players often make the regular-season roster in the fall.

 

Among the players currently on the Buccaneers' roster who originally joined the team as undrafted free agents are tackle Demar Dotson, guard Derek Hardman, safety Devin Holland, defensive end George Johnson, running back Mossis Madu and wide receiver Preston Parker, all of whom were on the active roster at some point last season.  Other prominent Buccaneers entered the league as undrafted free agents, but with other teams, including Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn and starting tailback LeGarrette Blount.