New Buccaneers LB Angelo Crowell was a team captain in Buffalo in 2007
Jermaine Phillips' just-revealed audition at linebacker means the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have one more player competing for the two open starting positions in the middle of the defense, right?
Actually, there will be two.
On Wednesday, the Buccaneers announced the signing of former Buffalo Bills linebacker Angelo Crowell, a player they had targeted at the start of free agency. As is team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Crowell, who became an unrestricted free agent on February 27, did not play in 2008 due to injury but was a starter for the Bills from 2005-07, filling the strongside linebacker spot in '06 and '07. He came into the league as a third-round pick in 2003 and had inherited a starting spot by his third season. He became a central figure in Buffalo's defense just as quickly, as evidenced by his selection as a team captain in 2007.
In Tampa, Crowell will compete for the starting job at that same strongside position, which the Buccaneers often refer to as the "Sam" backer. Phillips is currently in the early stages of learning the weakside, or 'Will,' linebacker position.
Also competing for the two starting jobs opened by last month's release of Derrick Brooks and Cato June are such young and intriguing players as Quincy Black, Geno Hayes and Adam Hayward.
Crowell brings an impressive resume into the competition. In his three years as a starter, he averaged 120 tackles per season and also added a total of seven sacks, three forced fumbles, five interceptions and 19 passes defensed. As his full stat line suggests, the 6-1, 246-pound Crowell is adept at both rushing the passer and dropping into coverage.
Crowell spent the 2008 campaign on injured reserve after undergoing knee surgery. However, his 2007 campaign was his best one yet, marked by a career-high in tackles (140) and starts (16) as well as two sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception and six passes defensed. Thanks to a big game against Washington in which he scored a safety on a sack of Jason Campbell and set up a field goal with a fumble recovery, Crowell finished the '07 season as the only linebacker in the NFL to have at least one safety, sack, interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery.
Though he would eventually take over for Jeff Posey on the strong side, Crowell actually got his first starting work on the weak side after Takeo Spikes went down with an Achilles tendon injury early in 2005. Crowell stepped in to start the final 13 games and was an instant success, racking up 125 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions. With the return of Spikes in 2006, Crowell moved to the strong side and replaced Posey, starting the first 12 games before sustaining a leg fracture in early December. He had 95 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions before the injury.
Before he moved into a starting role, Crowell was a big-time producer on special teams. He had 28 kick-coverage stops as a second-year player in 2004 to rank third on the team, helping the Bills rank first in the annual special teams rankings compiled by the Dallas Morning News.
An All-ACC selection as a senior at Virginia, Crowell went to Buffalo with the 95th pick of the 2003 draft. He is the younger brother of former Detroit Lions wide receiver Germane Crowell and a native of North Forsythe, North Carolina.
The signing of Crowell continues the Buccaneers' offseason quest to add proven and productive players to every corner of the depth chart. It also adds another player in his prime – Crowell is 27 years old – to a defense that is developing an impressive core of young talent with the likes of Barrett Ruud, Tanard Jackson, Aqib Talib and Gaines Adams.
In addition to Crowell, the Buccaneers have also added Pro Bowl tight end Kellen Winslow (via trade), 1,000-yard running back Derrick Ward and a pair of special teams contributors in kicker Mike Nugent and linebacker Niko Koutouvides. Putting a priority on keeping their existing building blocks, the Buccaneers also re-signed eight free agents and potential free agents: Phillips, safety Will Allen, wide receiver Antonio Bryant, wide receiver Michael Clayton, Cortez Hankton, Luke McCown, Ryan Sims and Jerramy Stevens.