Veteran Derrick Deese has played all five spots on the offensive line and blocked for six 1,000-yard rushing seasons
Derrick Deese arrived in Tampa on Wednesday for what could have been the start of a so-called 'free agency tour.' With Jon Gruden as his self-appointed tour guide, however, Deese's travels came to an abrupt end.
On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Deese, the San Francisco 49ers' starting left tackle in 2003 and an unrestricted free agent for all of one day in 2004. As is team policy, the Buccaneers did not disclose details of the contract.
Mere moments into Deese's visit to Tampa, Gruden made it clear that he wasn't taking no for an answer.
"Basically, he told me he was closing down the airport," said Deese, laughing. "He said he had control of it and he wouldn't let me get out of here until I signed."
Deese is the third player signed by the Buccaneers in the first two days of free agency, following Wednesday's acquisitions of tight end Dave Moore, and fullback Greg Comella. The athletic, experienced and extremely versatile lineman may be one of the most important pick-ups the Bucs make this offseason. Just before the beginning of free agency, Buccaneers General Manager Bruce Allen made it clear that the team's offensive line was a primary target for help.
"It's absolutely a key spot in order to keep our quarterbacks healthy," said Allen. "That's an area we need to focus on."
Deese could help the Buccaneers virtually anywhere on the offensive line, though his most common position through 12 NFL seasons has been left tackle. The 6-3, 289-pound Deese has played all five positions on the line during his career, including starts at right guard and both tackle spots. He signed with the Buccaneers without specifically being told where he would play in 2004.
"I'm not sure yet," said Deese. "I'm versatile and I can play all the positions. I'm just happy to sign here and move on."
During his time as a 49er, Deese has protected such prolific passers as Steve Young, Elvis Grbac and Jeff Garcia. He has blocked for 1,000-yard rushers Garrison Hearst, Charlie Garner and Kevan Barlow, and a total of six individual 1,000-yard seasons. He has been on nine playoff teams and started two conference championship games and one Super Bowl, the 49ers' 49-26 victory over San Diego in Super Bowl XXIX.
Last year, Deese was limited to 11 games and starts due to an ankle injury suffered in Week Two and aggravated at midseason. The 49ers were beset with a rash of ankle injuries to their linemen in 2003, in fact, but still managed to finish fifth in the league in rushing yards and ninth in sacks allowed per pass play. Deese was the anchor of that determined front line.
In 2002, Deese played in and started 14 games and, according to San Francisco coaches, did not personally allow a sack all season. His excellence was also noted by Sports Illustrated, which named him All-Pro after the season. That season, the 49ers ranked sixth in the league in rushing and allowed the third-fewest sacks in the NFL.
In all, Deese has played in 136 games and started 116 during his stellar, 12-year career, all of it spent in San Francisco until now. He first joined the 49ers as an undrafted free agent out of USC in 1992, though he missed his rookie season due to an elbow injury. A broken left wrist cut his second season short, too, but he stepped in as the starter at right guard in 1994 and played in all 16 games six of the next eight seasons.
Deese's run at left tackle began in 1997, when he took over that starting spot in the fourth week and never relinquished it. He had not played the position since high school and had spent the preseason and the first three weeks of 1997 playing center and guard, but he proved to be a revelation at the position. The following year, he started all 16 games, though he was used at both right and left tackle as injuries to other players forced the 49ers to rely on Deese's versatility again.
Deese was on the move again in 1999, starting the season at right guard, where he played the first two games. The 49ers then slid him back out to right tackle in left him there for the rest of the season. A knee injury cost him three games in 2000, but he played the majority of the season at left tackle, a position he remained at, for the most part, through last year.
Deese was a two-year starter at USC after transferring from El Camino Junior College in Torrance, California. He originally hails from Culver City, California.