CB Juran Bolden, who has had two separate stints in Atlanta, was Jacksonville's primary nickel back in 2004
Step by step, Juran Bolden's NFL path has brought him home.
Bolden, an eighth-year veteran cornerback who played the 2004 season in Jacksonville, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Tuesday. He becomes a leading candidate to succeed Mario Edwards as the Bucs' nickel back.
Though the mutual interest between Bolden and the Bucs was known for some time, his contract was not finalized until Tuesday morning.
In his prep days, Bolden was a football and track star at Hillsborough High School in Tampa. He has slowly been making his way back to his hometown over the last six years, playing for Kansas City in 1999, Atlanta from 2002-03 and Jacksonville last year.
Bolden was released by the Jaguars on March 3, as teams streamlined their salary-cap numbers for the new league year. In 13 games as Jacksonville's primary nickel back, he contributed 25 tackles, one forced fumble and one pass defensed. He missed the last three games of the season with a quadriceps injury.
In seven seasons and 77 games (15 starts) with the Atlanta, Green Bay, Carolina, Kansas City and Jacksonville, Bolden has recorded 114 tackles and seven interceptions. He has also played extensively on special teams, notching five kick-coverage stops last year and 39 on his career.
Bolden's most productive stretch came during his second stint in Atlanta, from 2002-03. Despite missing 10 games during that span due to knee injuries, he snared seven interceptions in 14 starts, returning one for a touchdown. That score came in front of his Tampa family, as he returned a pick 41 yards to the end zone against the Buccaneers on Dec. 20, 2003 in a 30-28 Falcon victory. Bolden recorded career highs in both tackles (41) and interceptions (four) in 2002 while appearing in 14 games and starting six.
Bolden's NFL career began in Atlanta in 1996, when the Falcons selected him in the fourth round out of Mississippi Delta Junior College. He played primarily on special teams as a rookie, notching 11 tackles, but worked into the nickel defense in 1997. The Falcons waived Bolden at the end of September in 1998 and he split that season between Atlanta, Green Bay and Carolina, playing in a total of 12 games.
Bolden spent half of the 1999 season with the Kansas City Chiefs before heading to the Canadian Football League for 2000-01, where he was a standout performer for the Winnipeg Bluebombers. He returned to the NFL with the Falcons in 2002.
At Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Bolden excelled at both safety and running back. He went on to earn junior college All-America at honors at Mississippi Delta.
Though somewhat cap-strapped, the Buccaneers continue to fill their most pressing needs in the early weeks of free agency. In addition to re-signing key veteran wide receiver Joey Galloway, the Bucs have also landed a starting tight end in the Jets' Anthony Becht, replaced Edwards, who was released in a salary-cap move, with Bolden and added a veteran kicker, Matt Bryant to the competition for that job. Also, potential losses of such players as quarterback Brian Griese, fullback Mike Alstott and defensive end Greg Spires were avoided when each agreed to new contracts.