DT Rashaad Duncan first moved into the Pitt starting lineup as a freshman
Two important trades during last weekend's NFL draft cost the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a pair of low-round draft picks, as the team moved up slightly in Rounds One and Four to guarantee that it would get Josh Freeman and Kyle Moore, respectively.
That left the Buccaneers without their sixth-round pick and one of their three seventh-rounders, but it didn't really slow down the business of player acquisition on Sunday. The draft ended at approximately 7:30 p.m. ET but Tampa Bay's war room was just kicking into gear.
As is the case every year, the selection of Mr. Irrelevant kicks the phones into high gear in the war rooms of all 32 teams around the NFL. Hundreds of prospects are left on the draft board at the end of Round Seven but many of them find their first professional homes before Sunday is even up.
The Buccaneers were certainly busy on Sunday night and in the days since. In addition to lining up several dozen players to come to participate in this weekend's rookie mini-camp on tryout contracts, the Bucs also signed eight of those undrafted rookies to their 80-man roster. Some of those men received phone calls right after the draft, but they weren't officially signed until Friday, the morning of mini-camp.
Among the undrafted free agents signed by the Buccaneers were Richmond running back Josh Vaughan, who racked up 1,884 yards and 20 touchdowns last year, and center Robert Bruggeman, who opened holes for an equally productive running back in Shonn Greene at Iowa.
Here are the eight undrafted free agents signed by the Buccaneers on Thursday:
|Marshall McDuffie||CB||6-2||207||Florida International|
The post-draft signing period can uncover significant assets for the team. Just a year ago, the Buccaneers signed undrafted cornerback Elbert Mack out of Troy and watched as he claimed a spot on the 53-man roster with an outstanding training camp. Later, after inviting several dozen more players to the rookie mini-camp on tryout contracts, Tampa Bay signed Fresno State running back/kick returner Clifton Smith. All Smith did was became the first undrafted free agent to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie in two decades.
There is room for any of Thursday's eight signees to make a similar impact on the Bucs' roster.
Bruggeman won second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2008, his only season as a starter on the Hawkeyes line. He had been poised to start in 2007 before tearing knee ligaments during spring practice, which kept him out of the season's first nine games. However, his teammates elected him a teamp captain before his senior season and Bruggeman made the most of his long-awaited starting role. Opening holes for Doak Walker Award-winning running back Shonn Greene, Bruggeman started every game at center and helped the Hawkeyes pile up 370 yards of offense per game. The 287-pound lineman has room to grow and is considered a technically proficient hard-working blocker. Bruggeman hails from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
A starter during his last two seasons at Georgia, Byrd played in a total of 52 games for the Bulldogs and recorded 109 tackles, one interception, two fumble recoveries and three passes defensed. He played primarily on special teams as a freshman, saw reserve action at safety as a sophomore and then stepped into the starting lineup in 2007. After contributing 44 tackles and one pick as a junior, Byrd started every game last fall and notched a career-high 49 tackles along with six passes defensed and one fumble recovery. He hails from North Augusta, South Carolina.
After beginning his college career at Rhode Island, Douglas started all of the Owls' 24 games during his two seasons at Temple. After sitting out the 2006 season due to transfer rules, Douglas opened the 2007 campaign as Temple's starting right guard before switching to right tackle for the rest of the season. Similarly, he opened seven games at right guard and five at right tackle for the Owls last fall, in the process winning the team's "Top Hog" award, given annually to the best offensive lineman. Born in Jamaica, Douglas played his prep ball in New Rochelle, New York.
Duncan was named Pittsburgh's Most Improved Defensive Player as a junior in 2007 and he carried that momentum into his senior campaign, posting a career high in tackles and adding 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Over four seasons with the Panthers, he amassed 145 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, with two QB takedowns each in his sophomore and junior seasons. A dependable force in the middle of Pitt's defense, Duncan appeared in all 48 games during his four collegiate seasons and earned his first start as early as his freshman year. Dunn hails from Belle Glade, Florida, where he helped Glades Central go undefeated over his last two prep years.
Bay area fans may remember McDuffie from his prep playing days at Durant High School in Plant City. McDuffie played four seasons each of football and basketball and ran two years of track, serving as a team captain on the gridiron. At Florida International, McDuffie played in 32 games over four seasons (2004-06, 2008), contributing 104 tackles and six tackles for loss. As a senior last fall, he combined 26 stops with two tackles for loss, one sack, three interceptions, two passes defensed and a forced fumble.
Miller played in 36 of the Rebels' 37 games over the past three seasons, starting 30 of them. He first moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2006, opening seven games at right tackle. After another season as the starting right tackle, Miller moved inside to right guard in 2008 and started 12 of 13 contests. He was a key figure in one of the top offensive lines in the SEC, helping Ole Miss rank second in the conference in rushing yards per game (186.5) and fourth in sacks allowed per game (1.54). Miller was a two-way star in the trenches at Central High in West Helena, Arkansas.
Vaughan was a valuable complement to current Arizona Cardinal Tim Hightower at Richmond from 2005-07; after Hightower's departure, Vaughan emerged as a star in his own right. Of the 3,393 rushing yards that Vaughan racked up during four seasons for the Spiders, an impressive 1,884 came last fall, as he carried the ball 355 times, averaged 5.3 yards per tote and scored 20 touchdowns. He had a nose for the end zoen for the past three seasons, rushing for 34 touchdowns and adding a 35th through the air. Vaughan also caught 46 passes for 369 yards during his collegiate career and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. He played his prep ball in Richmond, as well.
In just two seasons at Tennessee, Willingham made a strong impression after transferring from College of the Desert in California. Willingham played in all 26 games during the 2007-08 seasons and pitched in with 80 tackles, two tackles for loss, thre interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and seven passes defensed. Last fall, in 12 games, he snared three interceptions and broke up four passes while making 42 stops. Willingham starred on the junior college level after playing wide receiver, defensive back and return man as a prep in Calhoun, South Carolina.