DL Chidi Ahanotu ranks sixth on the Bucs' all-time sack list
Needing D-Line depth, the Bucs have signed Chidi Ahanotu, who previously played eight seasons in Tampa (1993-2000)…Also, K Jay Taylor is added to the practice squad
Chidi Ahanotu's NFL travels over the past four seasons have taken him on a long, jagged circle around the nation: St. Louis to Buffalo to San Francisco to Miami.
Now, however, Ahanotu has closed that circle by returning to the place where he spent the first eight years of his career and enjoyed his greatest production: Tampa.
On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Ahanotu as a free agent, looking to bolster a defensive line that has been thinned by an unusual run of injuries. Ahanotu has played both tackle and end during his 12-year career, and thus should help a unit that recently lost defensive tackles Ellis Wyms and Damian Gregory to injured reserve and could be without defensive tackle Anthony McFarland (shoulder) this weekend in Atlanta.
A spot for Ahanotu on the 53-man roster was opened when the team placed center John Wade on injured reserve. Wade suffered a season-ending knee injury on Sunday in the Bucs' win over Kansas City.
The Bucs also filled the one vacancy on their practice squad Wednesday, signing kicker Jay Taylor, most recently of the Arena League's Orlando Predators. Taylor, who has spent time with four other NFL teams, could be insurance in case Martin Gramatica's injury is more serious than hoped. Gramatica has a right hip flexor strain but Head Coach Jon Gruden indicated Monday that he was hopeful his kicker would be ready for Sunday's game in Atlanta.
A spot on the eight-man practice squad came open when defensive tackle Jon Bradley was promoted from that unit to the active roster last Saturday.
Ahanotu (6-2, 285) has played in 166 NFL games with 135 starts, including 113 and 104 with the Buccaneers from 1993-2000. His career statistics include 294 tackles, 43 sacks, four forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and 22 passes defensed. With 31 sacks in eight seasons as a Buccaneer, he ranks sixth on the team's all-time chart in that category.
Ahanotu most recently played for the Miami Dolphins, with whom he began the 2004 season. In five games in a reserve role, he recorded three tackles and one sack. He spent the previous season with the 49ers, playing in 16 games with one start and contributing 27 tackles, four sacks and two passes defensed.
Originally a sixth-round draft pick by the Buccaneers in 1993, Ahanotu became a starter just a few games into his rookie campaign. He showed his impressive versatility right off the bat, starting four games at nose tackle, three at under tackle and three at left defensive end in '93.
Ahanotu eventually settled into the left end spot for Tampa Bay and became known as a productive, high-motor player who could stop the run and rush the passer. His statistical peak came in 1997, when he recorded 65 tackles and a career-high 10 sacks. Though his 1998 season was marred by a shoulder injury that limited him to four games, he was still designed as the team's 'franchise player' prior to the 1999 season and signed to a six-year contract.
After two more seasons in Tampa, including a 63-tackle, 6.5-sack 1999, Ahanotu was released and later signed by the Rams. He started all 16 games for St. Louis in 2001 and registered 29 tackles and two sacks. In 2002, he joined the Buffalo Bills and recorded 44 tackles and five sacks.
The Bucs' depth has been seriously tested by the injuries to Wyms, Gregory and McFarland. For much of Sunday's game against the Chiefs, the team paired starting nose tackle Chartric Darby with Bradley, a rookie in his first NFL game, and backed them up with moonlighting defensive end Dewayne White.
Taylor first entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Miami Dolphins in 2000. He went to camp with the Buffalo Bills the next year but was waived before the regular season. Taylor then joined the short-lived XFL and excelled as both a punter a kicker for the Orlando Rage. He signed briefly with the Seattle Seahawks in 2002 and went to training camp with the Cleveland Browns in 2002 and 2003.
At West Virginia, Taylor connected on 53 of 72 career field goal tries and scored 310 points, second in school history. He also intermittently handled the Mountaineers punting chores, averaging 40.0 yards on 51 kicks.