QB Jared Allen was one of 20 players in town last weekend on tryout contracts
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made three roster moves on Thursday, signing one player – rookie quarterback Jared Allen – and releasing two others – wide receiver Scotty Anderson and safety Eli Ward.
Allen, undrafted out of Florida Atlantic University, stood out during Tampa Bay's rookie mini-camp last weekend, in which he participated on a tryout contract. Both Anderson and Ward were free agents signed by the team earlier this offseason.
One of 20 rookie or first-year players who were on hand for extended tryouts last weekend, Allen impressed the coaching staff with his accurate throws and his poise in the huddle. Allen got plenty of work over the camp's three practices, as there were only two quarterbacks among the 50 overall players, and he took almost every snap during the final workout on Sunday.
"I thought Jared Allen did a great job," said Head Coach Jon Gruden at the end of the weekend camp. "Give him credit – some of these sentences just to get out of the huddle are not easy, and he did a phenomenal job. Once again, it's a credit to him and a credit to his upbringing under (FAU Head Coach) Howard Schnellenberger."
The Buccaneers have now signed five of the 20 men who tried out last weekend, making this year's rookie camp particularly productive. Last year, only one player was signed out of the 27 who participated on tryout contracts. On Monday, the Bucs inked four of Allen's fellow roster hopefuls: cornerbacks Carlos Campbell and James Patrick, tackle Kevin Fischer and running back Derek Watson.
Fischer and Watson were teammates at Florida Atlantic, which just began its football program in 2001. Both were there at the team's inception; in fact, Allen could have started the Owls' inaugural game in 2001 had he not lost a coin flip with eventual starter Garrett Jahn.
Despite that first poor choice – yes, Allen made the call on the flip – he started 42 games over four seasons and led the Owls on two very successful campaigns in his junior and senior years. FAU finished 11-3 in 2003, with Allen starting every game, and advance to the NCAA Division I-AA semifinals, then compiled a 9-3 mark last season.
Allen's passing efficiency hit triple digits in each of his four seasons, peaking at 153.60 in 2003, when he threw 24 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. Last fall, he recorded a 143.79 efficiency on the strength of 60.8% passing and a 13-8 TD-INT ratio.
Over four seasons and 47 games overall, Allen completed 570 of 1,003 passes (56.8%) for 8,100 yards, 50 touchdowns and 30 interceptions for the Owls. As a junior, he directed Florida Atlantic to its first win over a Division I-A team, Middle Tennessee State, by completing 17 of 28 passes for 208 yards and two late-game touchdowns in a 20-19 victory. The Owls became the fastest start-up program ever to earn a Division I-A victory, beating MTSU in just its 22nd time out.
Anderson, who played his first three seasons with the Detroit Lions, was one of 14 players signed by the Buccaneers on January 14. Ward, a first-year safety from the University of Minnesota, signed with the Bucs on April 5 after going to training camp with the Indianapolis Colts in 2004.
Even with the aggregate reduction of one player on Thursday, the Bucs are still operating with a packed roster of 99 men. The NFL's offseason and training camp roster limit is 80 players per team, but the Bucs could currently go as high as 102, thanks to NFL Europe exemptions and the unsigned status of its dozen 2005 draftees.
Players participating in the spring NFLEL season earn their teams exemptions that last until the final roster cut before the regular season. The Bucs are using 10 such exemptions, which means they should be able to go to training camp with 90 men. And, until the latest draft picks actually sign contracts, they do not count against the 80-man limit. As each one signs, the team will have to make roster space for him.