On Monday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced the signing of sixth-year cornerback Ashton Youboty to a two-year contract. The 27-year-old Youboty played his first five NFL seasons with the Buffalo Bills before becoming an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
To make room for Youboty on their 90-man training camp roster, the Buccaneers released rookie tight end Jose Cruz.
The Bills originally selected Youboty early in the third round (70th overall) of the 2006 NFL Draft. He became a restricted free agent in 2010 but was re-signed by Buffalo to a one-year deal. Youboty is the second unrestricted free agent Tampa Bay has added from another team in 2011; on July 29, the Bucs signed former Atlanta punter/kickoff specialist Michael Koenen.
Youboty (5-11, 189) played in 43 games with seven starts during his Bills tenure, contributing 60 tackles, one interception, seven passes defensed, two sacks and one forced fumble. Last year he appeared in 13 games, playing primarily on special teams.
The former Ohio State standout played in just three games as a rookie while dealing with a hamstring injury and the death of his mother. He had a productive second season, playing in 11 games with three starts and contributing a career-high 23 tackles along with one sack and one interception.
In 2008, he was named the Bills' nickel back to start the season after a productive preseason in which he racked up 18 tackles, two interceptions and two sacks. He had 20 tackles and two passes defensed in the first five games of the season but then landed on injured reserve with a foot injury. The same ailment cut his 2009 campaign to just 11 games, during which he turned in 12 tackles and a career-best four passes defensed.
Youboty's signing adds depth to a position on the Bucs' roster that is talented but has been temporarily thinned by injury. Starter Aqib Talib and rising second-year player Myron Lewis both missed the preseason opener in Kansas City on Friday due to mild hamstring injuries. The Bucs' cornerback depth also includes starter Ronde Barber, 2010 standout E.J. Biggers, experienced nickel back Elbert Mack and 2011 seventh-round draft pick Anthony Gaitor.
Born in Liberia, Youboty moved to Philadelphia at the age of four and later played high school football in Klein, Texas. At Ohio State, Youboty started 22 of 36 games, including his last 21 collegiate outings, and recorded 131 tackles, five interceptions, 23 passes defensed and two sacks.
The Buccaneers signed Cruz, who played his college football at Hofstra and Syracuse, as an undrafted free agent on July 31 but he did not see any action in the team's preseason opener. The team added another tight end, Collin Franklin, last week and may soon see the return of fourth-round draft pick Luke Stocker, who has missed most of training camp with a hip injury.