The first week of NFL free agency brought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a new Pro Bowl starter at safety and added depth at the receiver and linebacker positions. The second week begins with another signing that could prove to be a very valuable addition to the tight end corps: former Green Bay Packer Tom Crabtree.
Crabtree met with the Buccaneers last week but the signing wasn't official until Monday. He had essentially become an unrestricted free agent last Tuesday when the new league year began, as he was a potential restricted free agent who did not receive a tender offer from the Packers. The Buccaneers moved in quickly to add a player they believe can help the offense in a number of ways.
The 6-4, 245-pound Crabtree comes to the Buccaneers after three seasons in Green Bay, during which he built a reputation as a strong blocker with big-play potential in the passing game. He had a career-high 203 yards and three touchdowns on eight catches in 2012, averaging 25.4 yards per grab. Those receptions included a 72-yard catch-and-run TD against Arizona and a 48-yard score against Houston. Throw in a nifty 26-yard score on a fake field goal against Chicago in Week Two – a moment that was nominated for NFL Play of the Year last season – and Crabtree averaged 49.0 yards per touchdown in 2012, the second-highest mark in the league.
Overall, Crabtree has played in 46 games with 16 starts and recorded 18 receptions for 302 yards and four touchdowns, while also excelling on special teams. He started a career-high nine games in 2011 when he emerged as a very valuable blocker on the front line. As a rookie in 2010, he won a Super Bowl ring with the Packers, scoring his first career NFL touchdown during a Wild Card win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Crabtree originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009, splitting his rookie campaign between the practice squads in Kansas City and Green Bay.
Crabtree (26 ) played his college ball at Miami of Ohio. As a three-year starter for the RedHawks he caught 40 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns.
Tight end was a position of need for the Buccaneers heading into the 2013 offseason, particularly if 2012 starter Dallas Clark departs via free agency. Crabtree joins a group that also includes third-year man Luke Stocker, who started 11 games last year and caught 16 passes, and 2012 undrafted free agent find Danny Noble. The group also includes Nate Byham, who was signed in October and played in 11 games with two starts; Drake Dunsmore, a seventh-round pick out of Northwestern last year who spent the season on the practice squad; and Zach Miller, the former Jaguar who was signed in January.