TE Anthony Becht started every game over the last four years in New York
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed tight end Anthony Becht, four years after their own draft pick was used to send Becht to New York.
Becht, who visited the Buccaneers last week, returned to Tampa Monday evening. However, his contract was not finalized until Tuesday morning. As is team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed by the Buccaneers.
A five-year starter with the N.Y. Jets, Becht was the 27th overall selection in the 2000 NFL Draft. At one time, that pick belonged to the Buccaneers, before it was traded to the Jets, along with the 13th overall choice in that round, in exchange for wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson.
Call it destiny, then, that Becht is now a Buccaneer, and the first major signing of another team's player since the beginning of free agency two weeks ago (K Matt Bryant, signed on March 2, was a free agent before the new league season started). Or, more to the point, call it a perfect fit, because the Bucs rather desperately needed a tight end and the 6-5, 272-pound Becht offer that coveted mix of blocking prowess and pass-catching ability.
In five seasons in New York, Becht has played in 78 of a possible 80 regular-season games and started 72 of them. He has hauled in 133 passes for 1,164 yards – with a high of 40 catches in 2003 – and has scored 17 touchdowns, including 14 from 2001-03.
Becht is also considered an above-average blocker, one who works hard at that aspect of his game. He has contributed to four 1,000-yard rushing season by Jets back Curtis Martin, including Martin's career-high 1,697 yards last season.
The Buccaneers considered the tight end position a priority heading into free agency, given that both starter Ken Dilger and deep threat Rickey Dudley were due to become unrestricted free agents. Dave Moore re-signed last week but was used primarily on special teams in 2004. The other tight ends on the Bucs' active roster include Will Heller, a third-year player with 14 career receptions, and a trio of players who appeared in a combined two games last year – Nate Lawrie, Billy Baber and Robert Johnson.
The Bucs also continued to address their most glaring needs despite an unfavorable salary cap situation. Last week, a thinned-out receiving corps got a big boost from the re-signing of wide receiver Joey Galloway. In addition, the quarterback and defensive end spots avoided painful hits when Brian Griese and Greg Spires agreed to new contracts.
Becht was arguably the top tight end on the free agent market, with only former Cardinal Freddie Jones battling him for that distinction. Becht has played in every game and started all but two of them over the last four years and was good for an average of 35 receptions a year from 2001-03. He had a career-low 13 receptions for 100 yards last season, but the Jets spread the ball around liberally in 2004, with two running backs and three receivers all notching 31 or more receptions.
As a rookie, Becht appeared in 14 games and started 10, contributing 16 receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He more than doubled those totals in his second campaign, recording 36 catches for 321 yards and five scores, followed by similar totals of 28-243-5 in 2002. His 40 catches in 2003 produced 356 yards and four touchdowns.
Becht was the second tight end drafted in 2000, following Miami's Bubba Franks, who went to Green Bay at pick 14. At West Virginia, Becht hauled in 83 receptions for 1,173 yards (14.1 avg.) and 10 touchdowns. He was the Mountaineers' team captain and MVP in his final two seasons, including a senior campaign that saw him grab 35 passes for 510 yards and five touchdowns.
Becht, who hails from Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, also won several academic honors while at West Virginia. He is 27 years old.