Just days before the start of training camp, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have found some added depth for their defensive line, and they won't even need a new nameplate for the locker room.
On Monday, the team re-signed defensive lineman Da'Quan Bowers, who had been an unrestricted free agent since March. Bowers spent his first four NFL seasons in Tampa after being drafted by the Buccaneers in the second round in 2011. Bowers, the 51st overall pick in '11, arrived as a defensive end but has since played both end and tackle.
At 6-4 and 288 pounds, Bowers certainly has the size to hold his own on the interior line, although Tampa Bay is currently deeper in proven performers at tackle than end. Still, Bowers' versatility could help him earn a second stint with the team when the Bucs pare down the roster for the regular season in September.
In his first four Buccaneer seasons, Bowers played in 50 games and made 10 starts, contributing a total of seven sacks. His production as a member of the D-Line rotation has also included 70 tackles, 22 quarterback hits, seven passes defensed and two fumble recoveries. Last season, Bowers played in 11 games, starting one at right end and one at defensive tackle and recorded 1.5 sacks to go with 21 tackles, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, a pass defensed and a fumble recovery. His best outing came during Tampa Bay's win at Pittsburgh in Week Four, in which he racked up five tackles, a sack and a quarterback hit.
Bowers was an first-team All-American at Clemson, where he won the Lombardi Award in 2010 as the nation's top lineman. After his 15.5-sack season for the Tigers, he was considered a potential top-10 pick before undergoing knee surgery in January of 2011. The Buccaneers used both of their first two draft picks that year on defensive linemen, taking Iowa's Adrian Clayborn 20th overall before following up with Bowers. Clayborn also became an unrestricted free agent in March after missing most of the 2014 season with a knee injury, and he subsequently signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
Dating back to March, the Buccaneers have used free agency to add depth to every level of their defense, while saving their draft picks to bolster the offense. Bowers is the third free agent addition to the defensive line, joining tackle Henry Melton and end George Johnson (though Johnson was actually a trade acquisition after initially agreeing to a deal with Tampa Bay as a restricted free agent). Like most of the team's defensive additions in free agency – which also included linebacker Bruce Carter, cornerback Sterling Moore and safety Chris Conte – Bowers is obviously already familiar with the system put in place by Head Coach Lovie Smith and Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier.