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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Tight End Youth Movement Continues with Payne Durham

Former Purdue TE Payne Durham joins Cade Otton and Ko Kieft in a young position group that can be employed in a variety of ways thanks to Durham's wide range of skills

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave 91 offensive snaps to tight ends in their Super Bowl LV victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, and 87 of them went to players who were either past the age of 30 or very close to it. Just over two years later, the Buccaneers tight end has a decidedly younger vibe.

Rob Gronkowski retired after the 2021 season and long-time Bucs stalwart Cameron Brate was released in March, so now it's the kids' turn. After drafting both Cade Otton and Ko Kieft a year ago, Tampa Bay tripled down at the position in the 2023 draft, selecting Purdue's Payne Durham in the fifth round. The Bucs were enamored enough of Durham to send off a seventh-round pick in order to move up four spots before taking him off the board.

Despite following right behind two other young draftees, Durham has a clear path to snaps in the Buccaneers' offense as a rookie. Other than Otton and Kieft, the only other tight ends on the offseason roster are Dominique Dafney and David Wells, and new Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales may be upping the percentage of plays the Bucs spend in "12" personnel this season.

"You just need depth," said Buccaneers Director of Player Personnel Mike Biehl. "We got young at the position in a hurry but we got the two guys last year and I think Payne will fit right in with those two and we'll keep rolling."

Durham will give whoever wins the Bucs' quarterback job a very big target with soft hands and a good feel for route running. At Purdue, he caught 56 passes last season and 45 the year before that, and he found the end zone 21 times in 45 career games. At 6-5 and 253 pounds, he can line up inline and help in the run game or split out into the slot.

"He's got a little bit of ability to do both, play Y and F," said Biehl. "He's a big, tall, long guy. He's got really good hands and ball skills. He's a great red zone target. He didn't run a great 40 but he knows how to play football and get open. We're excited about him. He was a lacrosse player in high school, only played one year of football, made the transition well. He's another kid that we had very high character grades on, which fits this draft class, what we tried to accomplish."

Otton had a promising debut season, leading all rookie tight ends in the NFL with 42 receptions and emerging quickly as a three-down player who could hold his own in blocking schemes. Kieft's specialty is his blocking, which he did from a variety of spots around the formation as a rookie. Durham's wide range of skills will allow Canales to employ all three young tight ends in a variety of ways.

"He's a steady blocker," said Biehl. "He's one of these guys that does everything well. I wouldn't say he's elite at anything but he does everything really well.

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