TE Kellen Winslow had back-to-back 80-catch seasons with the Browns in 2006-07
With their bold trade for Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow on the first day of the 2009 offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made this much clear: The offense was going to get an upgrade.
Furthermore, Tampa Bay's new management was looking for much more than a short-term fix.
That second point was emphasized on Monday when the Buccaneers announced that they had agreed to a new six-year contract extension with Winslow, the former Cleveland Brown who was drafted sixth overall in 2004.
Winslow's new deal demonstrates another way the Buccaneers intend to use the significant amount of cap space with which they entered the 2009 campaign. Despite such additions as Winslow, running back Derrick Ward, linebacker Angelo Crowell and kicker Mike Nugent, the team still has room to maneuver for long-term concerns such as these and for further additions to the roster.
And, of course, it's easy to see why the Buccaneers would want to make a long-term commitment to a 25-year-old tight end who has averaged 5.0 receptions and 55.9 yards per game during his young NFL career. Winslow doesn't yet have the career totals to be placed in the same category as the modern standards at his position, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. However, he compares quite favorably with those two on a per-game basis and could now take the next step into that category while wearing a Buccaneers uniform.
The Buccaneers acquired Winslow on February 27 in exchange for a second-round draft pick in 2009 and a fifth-round pick in 2010. The move added a rare commodity to Tampa Bay's offense, a tight end with 80-catch, 1,000-yard potential who has actually already hit this marks several times. After missing most of his first two seasons due to injuries, Winslow exploded in 2006 with 89 receptions for 875 yards and three touchdowns. He followed with 82 catches for 1,106 yards and five scores in 2007 and was named to his first Pro Bowl. Winslow's 13.5 yards per catch in '07 were indicative of his rare ability to stretch the field from the tight end position.
Winslow saw his first practice-field action as a Buccaneer last week during the team's voluntary, three-day mini-camp. After the team's first workout of the camp, new Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski was already impressed.
"Kellen does some things with matchups I think that we can get that are really going to benefit us this year," said Jagodzinski. "We can put him in different spots and move him around to get the matchup that we want. He can get in and out of a cut like a receiver, now. He's good. He's really good. I'm really looking forward to working with him and he's been great. He's been great out at practice, asking a lot of questions. [Tight Ends Coach] Alfredo [Roberts] had him in Cleveland already so he's very familiar with him and how he works and how he needs to be coached. I'm excited about him. I came off the field and I said, 'Man, we've got something good with him.'"
The Buccaneers have aggressively established a new course for the franchise since promoting Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik to head coach and general manager, respectively, in January. One of the team's primary goals is to build proven, productive depth at every spot on the roster, an issue that needed particular attention on offense. Trading for Winslow was one of the team's early maneuvers in that regard; committing to a long-term deal means the team believes he will be a cornerstone of that productive attack for years to come.