T Xavier Fulton was the Buccaneers' fifth-round pick in April, the 155th player selected overall
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their new management are wasting no time in addressing their unsigned 2009 draft class.
On Wednesday, the Buccaneers announced that they have signed offensive tackle Xavier Fulton, the fourth of six players the team selected in April's NFL Draft. An athletic former defensive lineman who was taken with the 155th overall pick, Fulton is one of the first players from the draft to reach contract agreement with his new team.
Inking one of their draft picks in early June represents a break from the team's efforts in recent years. Typically, all or most of the draft picks have signed their first contracts in the week leading up to the opening of training camp.
Rookies can participate in offseason workouts before they are under contract. However, they cannot report to training camp without a deal in place. Once a player signs his contract, he counts against the team's 80-man offseason roster limit; however, the Buccaneers had one open spot after losing FB Byron Storer to injured reserve and thus did not have to release a player upon signing Fulton.
A highly-recruited defensive lineman as a prep in Flossmoor, Illinois, Fulton chose the home state school and appeared in eight games as a true freshman, starting the last three. He finished that season with six tackles, two pressures and a pass defensed, then started the first seven games of 2005 before his knee injury. In those seven games, Fulton contributed 13 tackles, two tackles for loss, three pressures and half a sack.
After switching to tackle and earning a starting spot, Fulton was credited with 78 knockdown blocks by the Illini staff, and he was charged with just two sacks allowed on 323 pass plays. The Illinois running game produced 256.8 yards per game in 2007, leading the Big Ten and finishing fifth in the nation. In 2008, the Illini switched to a more pass-oriented attack, suiting Fulton's strengths even better. He drew only two penalties the entire season and allowed only two pressures on 393 pass plays, according to Illinois coaches.