The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed second-year punter Chas Henry, a former All-American at the University of Florida and the Philadelphia Eagles' punter for the entire 2011 season.
The NFL's 2013 free agency period doesn't begin until March 12, but players who were not on a team roster at the end of the 2012 season are free to sign at any time. Henry, who averaged 44.0 yards on 82 punts over 19 games with the Eagles from 2011-12, was released by Philadelphia last September.
The Bucs' incumbent punter, Michael Koenen, remains with the team and is signed through the 2016 season. He had a strong 2012 campaign, with a gross average of 45.3 yards per punt, a net average of 37.4 and a 22-6 ratio of kicks inside the 20 to touchbacks. Koenen, who handled the team's kickoffs as well, also set a franchise single-season record with 58 touchbacks and ranked first in the NFL in touchback percentage at 68.2%.
It is not uncommon, of course, for teams to carry more than one punter, kicker or long-snapper during the offseason and in training camp, even if those positions usually only take up one roster spot each during the regular season. And the 24-year-old Henry certainly appears deserving of another shot at the NFL after his award-winning collegiate career with the Gators and his recent experience with the Eagles.
Henry handled Florida's punting duties during his four years in Gainesville, peaking as a senior in 2010 when he averaged 45.1 yards on 50 kicks and downed 18 inside the 20 versus just three touchbacks. He was also forced into placekicking duties for a portion of the 2010 season, making 28 of 29 extra point tries and seven of 11 field goal attempts, including a game-winning overtime 37-yarder against Georgia.
Henry signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in April of 2011. He won the team's punting job as a rookie and averaged 42.9 yards on 66 kicks, with a net average of 36.9. He also handled the punting chores for the first three games of 2012, averaging 48.5 yards per kick with a net of 38.3.