G Cosey Coleman helped the Bucs produce the 10th-ranked offense in 2003
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have a number of new starters on their offensive line in 2004, but Cosey Coleman will be around to fight for his position.
The Bucs assured that on Monday when they re-signed Coleman, who had become an unrestricted free agent on March 3, along with 11 other Tampa Bay veterans. Coleman is the second player on that list to re-sign in Tampa, joining tight end Rickey Dudley, who was inked three days into the free agency period.
One of the more consistent performers on the Bucs' offensive line in recent years, the 6-4, 322-pound Coleman has started 47 of Tampa Bay's last 48 games, including all 16 in 2003. Last year, his versatility helped the Bucs weather injuries to Jason Whittle and Kerry Jenkins, as Coleman made five starts at left guard and 11 at right guard. That same versatility could help him fit into a unit that has added a number of players – e.g. Derrick Deese, Matt Stinchcomb, Matt O'Dwyer – who can play in different spots.
In all, Coleman has played in 55 games with 47 starts since being drafted by the Buccaneers in the second round in 2000. Before the 2003 season, all 31 of his starts had come at right guard, the position he assumed to begin his second season in 2001.
Coleman's finest stretch as a pro – as could be said for the Bucs' line in general – came during the 2002 playoffs. In winning three games, including Super Bowl XXXVII, the Bucs allowed just one sack of quarterback Brad Johnson and rushed for an average of 107 yards per game. The Bucs did not qualify for the playoffs in 2003, but the team did improve its offensive ranking from 24th in the NFL to 10th, tying the highest rank ever achieved by the franchise.
With Coleman back in the fold, Tampa Bay has now signed the equivalent of an entire starting offensive line in the three weeks of free agency. The Bucs moved quickly to sign Deese, Stinchcomb and O'Dwyer, then added two-time Pro Bowl tackle Todd Steussie the day after he was released by the Carolina Panthers in a salary cap-related move. In addition, the Bucs have five other lineman under contract who started for the team at some point during 2003: tackles Roman Oben and Kenyatta Walker, guards Kerry Jenkins and Jason Whittle and center John Wade.
Suffice it to say, competition for offensive line jobs will be intense in training camp.
Of course, the Bucs have gone to great length to add depth and competition at a number of spots since the beginning of free agency on March 3. Including the returns of Coleman and Dudley, the Bucs have signed an incredible 17 players: Deese, Stinchcomb, O'Dwyer and Steussie on the line, running backs Charlie Garner, Brandon Bennett and Jamel White, tight end Dave Moore, fullback Greg Comella, quarterbacks Jason Garrett and Brian Griese, linebackers Keith Burns and Jeff Gooch, cornerback Tom Knight and punter Josh Bidwell.
On top of that, the Bucs turned their anticipated release of wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson into a trade with the Dallas Cowboys, acquiring speed receiver Joey Galloway.
Still just 25 years old, Coleman originally joined the Buccaneers as the 37th player selected overall in the 2002 draft, after Tampa Bay traded up in the second round to get that pick. At Tennessee, he started 35 games over three seasons (bypassing his senior year to enter the draft), including 30 in a row at right tackle. In 1999, he received All-America honors from the Associated Press, among other sources. In his sophomore campaign, the Volunteers compiled a 13-0 record and won the national championship.
Coleman hails from Clarkston, Georgia.