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Early Signing Period

The Bucs inked fourth-round safety Tanard Jackson to his first NFL contract on Friday, getting a quicker start on rookie contracts than they had in recent years…Also, four players were released


S Tanard Jackson is the first of the Bucs' 10 draft picks to sign

Departing from the trend of recent summers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have begun signing their rookie draftees before the calendar flips to July.

Fourth-round safety Tanard Jackson got the ball rolling for the 2007 draft class, inking his deal on Friday, just one day after the end of the team's 14-week offseason program. As is team policy, terms of Jackson's first NFL contract were not disclosed.

Drafted players do not count against the 80-man offseason roster limit until they are officially under contract. However, as soon as they sign, the team must make room for them under that 80-man umbrella; thus the Bucs had to pair Friday's signing with at least one roster cut. In fact, they released four players, presumably clearing the way for some of Jackson's fellow rookies to follow his lead.

The Bucs waived the following four players: fullback Jon Goldsberry, wide receiver Efrem Hill, tight end C.J. Leak and cornerback Chaz Williams. Goldsberry spent four weeks on Tampa Bay's practice squad last season, while Hill, Leak and Williams were all signed this offseason. Williams was an undrafted rookie out of Louisiana-Monroe, signed in May after participating in the Bucs' rookie mini-camp on a tryout contract. Hill and Leak were first-year players with previous NFL experience.

The Bucs and their draftees are taking care of business a little early this year. Typically, the team has waited until a few days before the start of training camp to sign any of their drafted players, even those selected in the later rounds. Last year, for instance, the first draft pick contract was signed on July 19. In 2005, it was July 20; in '04, July 23; in '03, July 18; in '02, July 22.

In an offseason-capping interview on Thursday, General Manager Bruce Allen expressed confidence that the team would be able to get all of its rookies into training camp on time (players may participate in offseason work without a contract but cannot report to training camp until they have signed). That would be in keeping with the trend of previous seasons, as the Bucs haven't had a significant rookie holdout in a dozen years.

The Bucs have nine more draft picks to sign: first-round defensive end Gaines Adams, second-round guard Arron Sears, second-round safety Sabby Piscitelli, third-round linebacker Quincy Black, fifth-round defensive tackle Greg Peterson, sixth-round linebacker Adam Hayward and seventh-rounders tackle Chris Denman, running back Ken Darby and cornerback Marcus Hamilton.

The Buccaneers nabbed Jackson seven picks into the fourth round of April's draft, making him the 106th player chosen overall. A hard-hitting and speedy cornerback at Syracuse, Jackson has been shifted to safety by the Buccaneers, a move the team and the player previewed at the 2007 Senior Bowl in January. In 45 games at Syracuse, Jackson amassed 165 tackles, five interceptions, 2.5 sacks and 14 passes defensed.

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