Linebacker Jude Waddy made a good impression on Buccaneer coaches while playing in Green Bay
While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made two notable 2001 additions through free agency - quarterback Brad Johnson and defensive end Simeon Rice, of course – they have also lost a pair of players in linebacker Don Davis and tight end Patrick Hape.
On Monday, the team moved to fill Davis' spot by signing former Green Bay Packers linebacker Jude Waddy to a two-year contract. Like Davis, Waddy is an outstanding special teams player who also owns the skills to compete for a role on defense.
Waddy played his first two NFL seasons in Green Bay, where he did, in fact, start eight games in 1999. The former William & Mary star originally joined the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 1998, where he overcame stiff odds to make the active roster out of training camp. He then saw action in 13 games, tallying six special teams tackles, plus two stops and one sack on defense.
In 1999, Waddy became the Packers' starter at weakside linebacker midway through the season after Brian Williams' season was cut short by a knee injury. In 14 games and eight starts, Waddy posted 73 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and a pass defensed. In his first action in place of Williams, against Seattle on November 1, Waddy took over in the third quarter and quickly made six tackles. He did not play in 2000 after being waived in late August.
In Green Bay, Waddy was often referred to as talented but 'undersized'; however, his 6-2, 228-pound stature puts him right in line with the prototypical Buccaneers linebacker. The five linebackers who played significantly in the Bucs' defensive rotation last year – Derrick Brooks, Jamie Duncan, Shelton Quarles, Alshermond Singleton and Nate Webster – measure in at an average of 6-0.5, 232 pounds.
"We always like players who play with a high motor and work hard," said Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy. "It was very obvious going against him in Green Bay that he was that type of player. He's a great special teams player, and so much like our guys – a little undersized for a linebacker but very quick and tough. We think he's going to fit right in."
Waddy, who combines good speed and strength with strong tackling skills, is seen as a nickel linebacker candidate, a player adept at dropping into coverage. Tampa Bay hopes he can follow in the path of Davis, who has secured himself a spot in the NFL through consistently excellent special teams play, thus remaining in the mix each year for a greater role on defense. The Bucs' special teams coach, Joe Marciano, actually lobbied quite hard for the addition of Waddy after losing Davis to the Rams as an unrestricted free agent.
The Buccaneers now have seven linebackers under contract: Waddy, the five mentioned above and Jeff Gooch, another outstanding special teams player who is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Earlier this spring, Gooch was traded to the St. Louis Rams, but the trade was rescinded when the shoulder was found to still be in the healing process, thus not allowing him to pass the standard physical.
Waddy, who will wear jersey number 54, is making a homecoming of sorts. Though he was born in Washington, D.C. and played his high school ball in Suitland, Maryland, he also spent part of his childhood in the Tampa area when his mother was stationed at MacDill Air Force base.