While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers search for a head coach for next year and beyond, the building of their 2019 offseason roster is already underway.
On Thursday, the Buccaneers signed five free agents to reserve/futures contracts for 2019: quarterback Joe Callahan, defensive end Hunter Dimick, punter Hayden Hunt, linebacker Corey Nelson and long-snapper Zach Triner. That follows Monday's signings of eight other players, all of whom had finished the 2018 season on Tampa Bay's practice squad.
The latest signees were available to ink deals for 2019 because they were not on an NFL roster when the regular season came to an end. The reserve/futures contracts, which officially take effect when the new league year begins in March, allow teams, even those still in the 2018 playoffs, to begin shaping their offseason rosters.
Callahan and Nelson have previous regular-season experience in the league while Hunter and Triner have spent time on NFL practice squads. Hunt's signing represents his first crack at the NFL, though he did participate in the 2017 Scouting Combine.
Callahan (6-1, 216) was most recently in the Philadelphia Eagles' training camp this past summer, but his one game of regular-season action came with the Green Bay Packers in 2017. He replaced Brett Hundley for the final drive of Green Bay's season-ending loss to Detroit, completing five of seven passes for 11 yards. Callahan also entered the league with the Packers as an undrafted free agent out of Division III Wesley in 2016. He made Green Bay's active roster as a rookie but was subsequently waived and claimed twice, going first to New Orleans and then to Cleveland. When the Browns waived him in late November he went back to Green Bay and then split the following season between the practice squad and the active roster.
Dimick (6-3, 268) did not play appear on an NFL roster last season but he spent all of his 2017 rookie season on the Jacksonville Jaguars' practice squad. He went back to training camp with the Jaguars this past summer but was waived during the final roster cuts. Dimick played his college ball at Utah, appearing in 43 games with 33 starts and recording 150 tackles, 29.5 sacks, 44.0 tackles for loss, 11 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He had 14.5 sacks in 13 games as a senior in 2016.
Hunt (6-0, 220) was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation's top punter, as a senior at Colorado State in 2016. He was one of the three finalists for the same award in 2015, when he also earned second-team All-America accolades from USA Today. Hunt played in 52 games for the Rams and racked up 227 career punts for 9,948 yards (43.8 avg.). More than a third of his punts (78) were downed inside the 20 and he hit 58 of the 227 kicks for 50 or more yards.
Nelson (6-1, 226) is the most experienced of the five players the Buccaneers signed on Thursday, having played in 54 games with six starts since entering the league as a seventh-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2014. The 242nd player selected overall, Nelson made the Broncos' roster as a rookie and played in all 48 games over the next three seasons, with six starts in 2016. He landed on injured reserve after five games in 2017 and then signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an unrestricted free agent this past offseason. The Eagles cut Nelson near the end of the preseason and he signed with the Atlanta Falcons, appearing in one game before being released with an injury settlement in September. Nelson's career totals include 95 tackles, three tackles for loss, six passes defensed, four quarterback hits and one fumble recovery.
Triner (6-2, 247) has signed a reserve/futures contract with an NFL team for the third January in a row. His first shot at the NFL came at the Houston Texans' rookie mini-camp in 2015, which he attended on a tryout contract. Triner didn't earn a spot on the Texans' roster but was later signed by the New York Jets early in 2017. The Jets waived him in the spring but he got another chance with the Packers this past season. Triner made it to training camp with Green Bay, where he battled seventh-round draft pick Hunter Bradley for the snapping job. Bradley prevailed and Triner was waived in the final roster cuts. Triner began his collegiate athletic career as a lacrosse player at Siena but later transferred to Division II Assumption to play football. A defensive end for the Greyhounds as well as a long-snapper, he played in 25 games and recorded 66 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss.