TE Mark Anelli first entered the NFL as a member of the San Francisco 49ers' 2002 draft class
Here are three things you may not have known about Mark Anelli:
- He was on hand for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' last playoff win at Raymond James Stadium, as a practice squad player for the San Francisco 49ers in January of 2002. * In addition to playing tight end, he is also a capable long-snapper. * He is a Buccaneer.
That last bit you may or may not have seen. The Buccaneers announced the signing of Anelli, plus 28 other free agents, to "reserve/future" contracts on January 12. Three more players agreed to the same type of deal eight days later, meaning the Bucs have added 32 players to their 2006 roster since the end of 2005.
The additions of Anelli and the other 31 free agents were not insignificant; almost every year, several men who were considered "street" free agents in January make it onto the active roster the following September. Last year's examples: Blue Adams and Kalvin Pearson.
Many of these new players are somewhat unknown to Buccaneer fans, however. Anelli has been in or around the league since 2002, when the 49ers made him a sixth-round draft choice, but as of yet he has no career receptions and has not played in a game against the Buccaneers.
Half of those 32 newly-signed Bucs might be considered somewhat familiar to Buc watchers, thanks to appearances in last year's training camp, long stretches on the practice squad, previous appearances on the active roster or some combination of all three. That group includes QB Jared Allen, WR Larry Brackins, G Jonathan Clinkscale, RB Jacque Lewis, T Sam Lightbody, WR Derek McCoy, DT Lynn McGruder, CB James Patrick, FB Rick Razzano, T Stefan Rodgers, WR J.R. Russell, P Brian Simnjanovski, LB Jermaine Taylor, WR Paris Warren, DE Andrew Williams and DT Keith Wright.
That still leaves 16 new arrivals, players who have never been Bucs before, or who had only brief Tampa cameos in the past. Players like Anelli, and G Phil Bogle, and WR B.J. Johnson. Players who we should get to know just a bit better.
Below find a closer look at half of those 16 newcomers; the other eight will be briefly profiled next week. Today's eight: Anelli, Bogle, Johnson, CB Jonte Buhl, WR Jonathan Carter, S Steve Cargile, WR Chas Gessner and T Todd Williams.
Four of those eight have previously made it onto some team's active roster during a regular season, including Anelli. The former Badger standout made the 49ers' 53-man squad out of training camp in his 2002 rookie season and later appeared in two November games. He actually made several trips between the active roster and the practice squad that season, but he got some action in at tight end in a win over Kansas City and played on special teams the following week in a loss at San Diego.
Anelli (6-3, 245) has good size for the position and displayed trustworthy hands in college. The Bucs also like his long-snapping potential, and they will give him a shot at that job this spring. The team may have to replace that position if Dave Moore, another long-snapping tight end who has been in the league since 1992, does not return.
The Bucs will be sending 11 of their 32 new signees over to NFL Europe this spring, but Anelli is not in the group. He took his European tour last year after being signed and allocated to the NFLEL by the Atlanta Falcons. The decision to hone his game in Europe was a good one for Anelli, who ended up leading the Frankfurt Galaxy in receiving with 36 catches for 395 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games.
After showing promise as a rookie, Anelli went back to camp with the 49ers in 2003 but was eventually waived, ending up on the Chicago Bears' practice squad in late December. Anelli also spent two months on the N.Y. Giants' practice squad in 2004. At Wisconsin, Anelli was a team captain and an all-conference first-team pick as a senior, catching 48 passes over his four collegiate seasons.
The 6-2, 322-pound Bogle has had an unusual career path. He played his college ball at tiny Division II school New Haven and only went to the San Diego Chargers' camp in 2003 as an undrafted rookie. However, he impressed immediately in San Diego with his athletic footwork and ended up in the Chargers' starting lineup. Bogle started 13 games for the Chargers that season, a claim that many highly-drafted linemen can't make in their rookie campaigns.
Considering his roots, Bogle was probably still a bit raw, and that may have hurt him the following summer, when he was released during the Chargers' final cut. It also may not have helped that San Diego had drafted two linemen that April – Nick Hardwick and Shane Olivea – who ended up starting as rookies.
Bogle was brought back for a few weeks in September, but didn't appear elsewhere in the league until after that 2004 season, when he was signed by Cleveland. The Browns let him go in late July and the Bucs picked him up for a short period near the end of a training camp in which practically every Tampa Bay linemen had sustained an injury at some point.
Buhl, like Bogle and many of the players on this list, entered the league as an undrafted free agent, though more recently. A 5-10, 175-pound cornerback at Texas A&M, he is the type of all-around player the Bucs like at the position, able to handle run support as well as man-to-man and zone coverages.
Buhl finished his Aggie career strong in 2004, ranking third on the team with 68 tackles and adding two interceptions, seven passes defensed and two fumble recoveries. Is he fast? Well, as a prep he was a two-time AAU national champion in 400-meter and 1,600-meter relays.
The Bucs have had two Buhls on the roster in the last 24 months. Linebacker Josh Buhl, who played his college ball at Kansas State, was signed by Tampa Bay last March and released in the September 3 cutdown to 53. The two young men are not related; if it helps, Jonte Buhl is the one who hails from Pflugerville, Texas. Yes, Pflugerville.
Carter is heading to Europe this spring, having been allocated by the Bucs and assigned to the Cologne Centurions. He is looking for some more live game action despite being one of the most NFL-tested players on the Bucs' list of newcomers.
It might be easy to confuse this Carter with Tim Carter, as the New York Giants drafted both receivers in back-to-back offseasons. The Giants picked Jonathan Carter in the fifth round in 2001 after the Troy State receiver had gone from an unknown junior to a legitimate prospect as a senior. Tim Carter was added in the 2002 draft, and the two were briefly teammates before Jonathan Carter was waived by the Giants in early October.
Carter didn't have to move after that cut, however, as he was immediately claimed off waivers by the New York Jets. While he had played in only two games in a year-and-a-half with the Giants, he found a place in the Jets' offense and remained on their roster for two-and-a-half years.
The Jets brought out the big-play touch in Carter, who at 6-0 and 180 pounds is tall and slim but very fast. They found a way to get him 14 receptions for 262 yards and two touchdowns, and he averaged 19.0 yards per catch over a 22-game span. The Buccaneers like that aspect of his game, as well as his abilities on kickoff return, where he excelled in college and produced a 24.1-yard average on 44 runbacks with the Jets.
The 6-1, 201-pound Cargile is smart, versatile and athletically gifted, but he was almost bound to be an undrafted free agent as a rookie in 2004 for two reasons: 1) He played his college ball at Columbia, not widely known as a football powerhouse, and 2) He switched positions as a senior, meaning he was a raw talent at his new spot, safety.
The Dallas Cowboys saw potential in Cargile, though, before and after they signed him in the spring of 2004. They didn't keep him on the active roster that fall, but they found a spot for him on the practice squad for almost the entire season. The following spring, he was released in May and he had to wait eight months before the Bucs picked him up in January.
Cargile caught 38 passes as a receiver in his sophomore and junior seasons (the Ivy League does not allow freshmen to play). The move to safety clearly suited him, however, as he immediately won second-team all-conference honors by recording 99 tackles and two interceptions. A football, basketball and track star who earned eight letters in Cleveland, he was also a cum laude graduate from high school before heading on to the Ivy League.
The Bucs, who have drafted two players from Yale and one from Dartmouth in the last five years, are clearly not afraid to test the talent in the Ivy League. That was true last month, too, when in addition to Cargile the Bucs added Gessner, a former standout at Brown.
Gessner has intrigued NFL teams since 2003, when he signed as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots, and at 6-4 and 215 pounds it's easy to see why. He certainly put his size and skills to good use at Brown, where he was twice a finalist for the Walter Payton award, which is given annually to the nation's top I-AA player. His 292 career receptions are the second-highest total in Ivy League history.
Gessner has yet to get an opportunity in the NFL during the regular season, but he has at least proven himself on the NFL Europe level. The Patriots sent him overseas after a rookie season split between the practice squad and the physically unable to perform list, and he was one of the league's top players in the spring of 2004. Playing for the Berlin Thunder, Gessner led the league with six touchdown receptions and earned all-league honors.
Gessner didn't stick with the Patriots in 2004, but he did spend half of that season on the New York Jets' practice squad. The Jets brought him back for training camp this past summer but he was released prior to the regular season.
Johnson, another new Buccaneer receiver, also has good size (5-11, 207) and he might also have another advantage: A pre-existing relationship with Tampa Bay's quarterback.
Johnson played his college ball at Texas, which means he caught many a pass from Chris Simms, who finished 2005 as the Buccaneers' starter. (Simms is due to become a restricted free agent if he does not sign a new contract before March 3.) Simms had the luxury of throwing to Roy Williams, the current Detroit Lion who went high in the draft in 2004, but Johnson was Simms' second-favorite target during his 2002 senior campaign. That year, Johnson started every game and caught 40 passes for 603 yards and five touchdowns.
In four seasons at Texas, Johnson racked up 152 receptions for 2,389 yards and 16 touchdowns. While that didn't get the Grand Prairie, Texas native drafted, it did get him a free agent contract with the Denver Broncos in 2004. Johnson had a bit of misfortune in his first NFL training camp, however, suffering a sprained ankle that put him on injured reserve for the season. He came back to Broncos camp this past summer but was waived prior to the regular season.
Williams is an intriguing prospect, a former seventh-round draft pick of the Tennessee Titans who might be familiar to some Buc fans due to his Florida State roots. Williams was on the Titans' opening-day 53-man roster for each of the past three years but still hasn't seen much action, appearing in just six regular-season games so far.
A huge man at 6-5 and 325 pounds, Williams plays with power and can engulf rushers with his wide body and long arms. A native of nearby Bradenton, Florida, he played both guard and tackle at Florida State and one year was the recipient of an NCAA Inspiration Award, given to players who have overcome difficult circumstances to emerge as role models.
The Titans didn't put Williams into any action as a rookie, making him a game-day inactive for all 16 contests. He did get into six games in his second campaign, playing sporadically at right tackle in four of them while Fred Miller struggled with an ankle injury. This past fall, he initially made the active roster before being released a week into the season, and he subsequently had a series of tryouts with other NFL teams before landing with the Buccaneers.
Coming next week: A closer look at the Bucs' two new kickers, Xavier Beitia and Mike Shafer, as well as fullbacks Carey Davis and Robert Douglas, LB Antoine Cash, CB Dwight Ellick, G Jason Nerys and WR Terrence Stubbs.