Brent Bowden is a rookie, but he's also the only punter on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster. Fortunately, as he prepares to assume that crtical job this fall, he now has one less potential distraction to worry about.
On Wednesday, the Buccaneers announced that they have signed Bowden, a sixth-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, to a four-year deal. Since the agreement means the rookie now counts against the NFL's 80-man offseason roster limit, the Buccaneers also released sixth-year wide receiver Mark Bradley to make room.
Bowden becomes the third member of the Bucs' nine-man draft class to have reached agreement, representing an impressive head start towards the goal of having every player in training camp on time. Fourth-round wide receiver Mike Williams signed a four-year deal on June 4 and third-round cornerback Myron Lewis did the same on June 14. Usually, the majority of the league's draft picks remain unsigned until closer to the beginning of training camp.
The strong-legged Bowden (6-3, 202) handled the punting duties at Virginia Tech for three seasons and finished with excellent career averages of 42.2 yards gross and 36.4 yards net. He is considered an excellent directional punter and the Buccaneers believe he can be a valuable weapon on fourth down.
Bowden was only the second punter off the board in 2010, following Michigan's Zoltan Mesko who went 22 picks earlier to the New England Patriots. That relatively high selection for Bowden is an indication of the Buccaneers' belief in his NFL potential, and of course it is yet another example of the team placing an emphasis on special teams.
The 6-2, 202-pound Bowden certainly has an excellent opportunity to grab the Buccaneers' punting job in 2010, and for years to come. He was an All-ACC first-team selection in 2009 after leading the conference and ranking 14th in the nation with a gross average of 43.7 yards per punt. He also dropped 20 of his 57 punts inside the 20 against just nine touchbacks.
Bowden's placement ability is reflected in his net average and his touchback/inside-the-20 ratio. He had a net average of over 37.0 in two of his three seasons and his final marks of 28 touchbacks versus 72 punts inside the 20 indicate very good control.
The Buccaneers claimed Bradley off waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs last December 23, but he did not appear in either of the team's last two games. He previously played five seasons for the Chiefs and the Chicago Bears, who drafted him out of Oklahoma in the second round in 2005.