LB Keith Burns was the special teams captain in Denver the past two seasons
On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed former Denver Broncos linebacker Keith Burns, the best evidence so far that the team is serious about upgrading its special teams units.
Burns has been a valuable reserve on the Broncos' linebacker squad for nine of his 10 NFL seasons, but his greatest impact has come on special teams. With 182 career kick-coverage tackles, Burns has averaged over 18 special teams stops per year. By contrast, the Bucs' leading tackler on special teams last year, cornerback Corey Ivy, had 16 stops.
Before Tuesday's addition of Burns, the Bucs had signed five other free agents from other teams, including running back Charlie Garner, also inked Tuesday. Derrick Deese and Matt Stinchcomb will aid the team primarily on its offensive line but tight end Dave Moore and fullback Greg Comella could be valuable additions to special teams. Moore is an accomplished long-snapper and Comella was one of the New York Giants' top special teamers in 1998 and 1999.
The 6-2, 235-pound Burns has excelled on special teams for a decade. In six of his nine seasons with the Broncos, he led or tied for the team lead in special teams tackles. He was Denver's special teams captain in each of the past two years, and he posted 24 kick-coverage stops in 2003.
Burns also gives the Bucs a much-needed shot of depth at the linebacker position, where they currently employ just three veterans – Derrick Brooks, Shelton Quarles and Ryan Nece. Former Buc reserve Nate Webster signed with the Cincinnati Bengals on March 4 and veteran Dwayne Rudd was released by Tampa Bay on Tuesday, March 2.
Burns has played in 151 career games with two starts. His defensive totals include 73 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one interception. His most recent start, in 2002, came at middle linebacker, a spot at which the Bucs especially lacked depth heading into 2004.
Burns originally entered the league as a seventh-round pick (210th overall) by Denver in 1994. He spent his first five years in Denver before signing with Chicago as an unrestricted free agent in 1999. After his one season in Chicago, Burns returned to the Broncos where he played for the past four seasons. Burns was a two-year starter at Oklahoma State University totaling 233 tackles while earning All-Big Eight honors as a senior. He hails from Alexandria, Virginia.