LB Teddy Lehman snared his second career interception against the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in 2005
There are few sure things in free agency or the draft, but this much seems certain regarding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first week on the open market: they have significantly improved their depth at linebacker.
On Wednesday morning, the Buccaneers announced the signing of linebacker Teddy Lehman, an unrestricted free agent who played his first four seasons in Detroit. Lehman is the third linebacker the team has signed in two days, following the additions of Leon Joe on Tuesday and Matt McCoy earlier on Wednesday.
Actually, the Bucs have actively added to several corners of the depth chart since free agency kicked off last Friday at 12:01 a.m. In addition to the three linebackers, they have signed center Jeff Faine, tight end John Gilmore and defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson, re-signed linebacker Antoine Cash and traded for quarterback Brian Griese.
Lehman, the latest addition, was originally a second-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 2004, the fifth selection of that round and the 37th player taken overall. His career got off to a fast start, as he opened his rookie season as the starter at strongside linebacker and held that spot for all 16 games. The only rookie linebacker to start every game in 2004, the 6-1, 242-pound Lehman finished the season as the Lions' second-leading tackler, racking up 120 stops, one sack, one interception and two passes defensed.
Unfortunately, Lehman's next two seasons were disrupted by knee, ankle and foot injuries. He appeared in just nine games in 2005 and 2006, though he did play against the Buccaneers in October of '05, notching his second career interception in a 17-13 Tampa Bay win.
Last season, Lehman played primarily on special teams but proved valuable to the defense as well as a reserve at both middle and outside linebacker. With 22 tackles and 10 stops on special teams, he raised his four-year career totals to 165 and 20, respectively.
Lehman's early success in the Lions' defense came as little surprise after his dominant college career. Not only was he a consensus All-America choice as a senior at Oklahoma, he also took home the Dick Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker, and the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the nation's top defensive player overall, in 2003. He was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the Big 12 in 2002, as well. Lehman hails from Fort Gibson, Oklahoma.
The Buccaneers' linebacking corps now includes a trio of players picked in the second rounds of the 2004 and 2005 drafts. In addition to Lehman, the Bucs boast starting middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, their own second-round choice in 2005, and McCoy, a second-round selection of the Eagles in '05.