Former Jets FB Jerald Sowell provided much of the lead-blocking for Curtis Martin's 2004 rushing title campaign
Jerald Sowell was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1997, but he has spent his entire NFL career as a New York Jet after being claimed off waivers just before the beginning of his rookie season.
Now Sowell is a Buccaneer, having signed with Tampa Bay as an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday. Though this valuable addition had been heavily reported last week, Sowell didn't visit Tampa to sign his new deal until this week. The 10th-year veteran obviously fills the vacancy left by fullback Jameel Cook, who signed with the Houston Texans last month, but he will actually impact the Bucs' game-day efforts in a variety of ways. Here's what the Buccaneers have added in the versatile Sowell:
- A pass-catcher. Sowell has 147 career receptions, including 120 over the last three seasons to lead all NFL fullbacks in that span. * A special teams ace. Sowell is the Jets' all-time leader in kick-coverage tackles with 146, including 103 solo stops. He once had seven special teams tackles in a single game at New England in 2000. * An extremely durable performer. Sowell has not missed a single game, including the preseason and postseason, in the last eight years, and he started 46 contests over the last three seasons.But the most important thing Sowell brings to Tampa Bay is outstanding lead-blocking abilities. A true basher of a fullback, the 6-0, 237-pound Sowell has carried the ball just four times over the last three seasons but has nonetheless been an integral part of the Jets' rushing attack. His finest season may have been 2004 when, in addition to catching 47 passes, he helped pave the way for Curtis Martin to win the NFL rushing title with 1,697 yards.
Overall, Sowell has played in 137 NFL games with 48 starts and recorded 61 carries for 244 yards and one touchdown plus 147 receptions for 1,188 yards and two scores. The presense of Pro Bowl fullback Richie Anderson in New York delayed Sowell's elevation to the starting lineup, but he used those earlier years to develop into the Jets' top special teams contributor. From 1999-2003, Sowell averaged almost 26 kick-coverage tackles per season.
A Tulane grad and former high school valedictorian, Sowell entered the league as the 231st player selected in the 1997 draft, going to the Packers late in the seventh round. After joining the Jets, he got into nine games as a rookie and contributed seven rushes for 35 yards and one eight-yard reception. Sowell earned two starts at fullback in 1998 and was also used more extensively in the running game than at any other time in his career, rushing 40 times for 164 yards (4.1. avg.).
Sowell played primarily on special teams from 1999-2002 but move into the starting lineup in 2003 after Anderson's departure. In his first full season as Martin's lead blocker, Sowell helped the Pro Bowl back rush for 1,308 yards. In 2004, the Jets fielded the NFL's third-best ground attack, rushing for 2,338 yards, 15 touchdowns and 4.5 yards per carry as a team.
Sowell is the fourth free agent to join the Buccaneers from another team since the beginning of the new league season on March 11. Earlier this month, Tampa Bay added former Dallas tackle Torrin Tucker and former Jacksonville linebacker Jamie Winborn. In March, the team signed former Minnesota and San Diego guard Toniu Fonoti.