The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are counting on big performances from a number of very young defensive linemen in 2011. It doesn't hurt to have an experienced veteran around at the same time, however.
Defensive end Tim Crowder, who signed a two-year contract to return to the Buccaneers, had been an unrestricted free agent since the signing of the new CBA 12 days prior. Crowder is still just 26 years old and is heading into just his fifth NFL season – in other words, he is also a young talent just entering his NFL prime – but that practically qualifies as a grizzled vet on the Bucs' youthful roster.
The 6-4, 260-pound Crowder certainly played like a veteran on the Buccaneers' defensive line last year, starting nine games at left defensive end and tying for third on the team with 3.0 sacks. Crowder also contributed 42 tackles, three tackles for loss, four quarterback pressures, four passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He was considered an every-down lineman, strong against the run but also capable of penetrating the backfield.
The Buccaneers actually signed three players on Friday, the start of the second week of the team's three-week training camp at One Buccaneer Place. In addition to rookie kicker Jacob Rogers out of the University of Cincinnati, the Bucs also signed former Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton, most recently of the New England Patriots. To make room on the 90-man camp roster for those three additions, the team released defensive tackle Doug Worthington, tackle Quintin Borders and kicker Josh Jasper.
A rookie in 2010, Worthington joined the Buccaneers practice squad last November and was eventually promoted to the active roster in time for the regular season finale, though he did not see action in that contest. Borders and Jasper were both undrafted rookies who signed with Tampa Bay last week.
Crowder first entered the NFL as a second-round draft pick by the Denver Broncos in 2007. He had a strong rookie season, contributing four sacks in 13 games and one start, but he appeared in only six games in 2008 and was released during the final roster cuts at the beginning of the 2009 campaign. The Bucs signed him after the first week of the '09 season and he has since played in all of the team's 25 games and made a total of 13 starts.
Crowder made a good impression in his first year with the team, pitching in with 47 tackles and 3.5 sacks, before posting nearly identical numbers in 2010. He had his best game as a Buccaneer in a Week Two win at Carolina last season, racking up two sacks and a key forced fumble.
Crompton was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the fifth round (#168 overall) of the 2010 draft. He was waived by the Chargers just prior to the regular season and spent one week on San Diego's practice squad before being waived from that unit. The Patriots added Crompton to their practice squad on November 2 and he spent the rest of the season there before re-signing with New England for the 2011 season in January. The Patriots released him on August 1.
The 6-3, 222-pound Crompton finished his Tennessee career as the seventh-leading passer in school history, completing 348 of 629 passes for 4,187 yards, 36 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. As a senior, he threw for 2,500 yards and 27 TDs. Crompton's signing gives the Bucs' five quarterbacks on their training camp roster. He joins holdovers Josh Freeman, Josh Johnson and Rudy Carpenter as well as undrafted free agent Mike Coughlin.
Rogers previously signed with the New Orleans Saints prior to training camp but was subsequently released. The 6-3, 195-pound kicker played in 52 games at Cincinnati, converting 51 of 75 field goal attempts and 186 of 194 extra point tries during his collegiate career. He finished his Bearcats tenure as the school's all-time leading scorer, and as a senior he also handled the team's punting duties. As a punter, he averaged 41.6 yards on 43 boots. Rogers' long field goals at Cincinnati included a 55-yarder in 2007 and a 54-yarder in 2008.