The members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2019 draft class are in town this weekend for their first on-field work as professional football players. Many of them also used the opportunity to take care of some important paperwork.
On Thursday, the Buccaneers announced that they had signed five of the eight players they selected in the draft: second-round cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, fourth-round defensive end Anthony Nelson, fifth-round kicker Matt Gay, sixth-round wide receiver Scotty Miller and seventh-round defensive end Terry Beckner. All four got four-year deals, as is mandated by the CBA.
That quick work leaves just three unsigned rookies: first-round linebacker Devin White, and a pair of third-round picks, cornerback Jamel Dean and safety Mike Edwards. Rookies may sign a waiver and participate in the offseason program without a deal in place but they must have a completed contract in order to report to training camp in late July. The Buccaneers haven't had a training camp holdout of any significant length in a quarter century, and holdouts have been rare league-wide since the new CBA in 2011 largely codified the process.
The Buccaneers will hold their rookie mini-camp over the weekend, with practices scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The team's newest players arrived at the AdventHealth Training Center on Thursday for their initial meeting with the coaching staff and to take care of business such as that noted above.
Murphy-Bunting (6-0, 195) brings speed, size and ballhawking skills to the Buccaneers' defensive backfield. He picked off nine passes over the past three years at CMU and also forced four fumbles. Murphy-Bunting clocked a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the Combine and has a nose for the football, with 24 passes defensed in 37 games. He could immediately compete for the slot corner job or put pressure on Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis on the outside.
The Buccaneers addressed their pass rush in the fourth round, snagging Iowa's Nelson at the 107th spot. Nelson was very productive for the Hawkeyes, with 23 sacks and 31 tackles for loss in 39 games over the last three seasons. With the Buccaneers converting to Bowles' 3-4 defensive scheme, Nelson should provide juice to the edge rush while also having the versatility to move inside in 4-3 looks and put his hand on the ground.
Tampa Bay first deviated from its all-defense draft in the fifth round when it selected Utah's Gay 145th overall. Gay was the Lou Groza Award winner as the nation's top kicker in 2017 and was a semifinalist for the same award last year. A walk-on with a background in collegiate soccer, Gay made 56 of his 65 field goal tries over those two years and all 85 of his extra point attempts, and he was eight for 11 on attempts from 50 yards and beyond. Gay will compete with returning veteran Cairo Santos for the Bucs' job.
The lone pick on offense for the Buccaneers came in the sixth round, when they allocated the 208th selection to Miller. Blazing fast and possessed of great change-of-direction skills, Miller was seventh in the FBS last year with 104.4 receiving yards per game. He was a first-team all-conference choice last season after snaring 71 passes for 1,148 yards and nine touchdowns, with an average of 16.2 yards per catch. Miller may find a role in the slot early in his career and he could get a shot at one or both of the return jobs as well.
Tampa Bay wrapped up its 2019 draft by selecting Missouri's Beckner with the first pick of the seventh round, number 215 overall. Beckner, a Freshman All-America choice at Mizzou, overcame a run of knee injuries to finish his collegiate career with 26 straight games played. He was productive when on the field, recording 120 tackles, 32 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. A high-effort player, Beckner could find a spot in the defensive line rotation as the Buccaneers sort through their personnel to find the best mix for Bowles' new defense.