Rookie LB Geno Hayes is the third of the Bucs' 2008 draft picks to agree to a contract
Their offseason program now in the rear-view mirror, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continued to smooth out their player roster this weekend in anticipation of next monthâ€™s training camp.
Among the remaining tasks that must be accomplished before camp are the inking of the teamâ€™s 2008 draft class and the official re-signing of the clubâ€™s exclusive rights free agents. On Sunday, the Bucs announced progress on both fronts: Sixth-round linebacker Geno Hayes has reached contract agreement and exclusive rights free agents Charles Bennett, Andrew Economos, Chad Lucas and Donte Nicholson have also signed new deals.
Hayes is the third member of the Bucsâ€™ seven-man 2008 draft class to sign a deal, following seventh-round running back Cory Boyd and fourth-round defensive tackle Dre Moore. The team still must sign first-round cornerback Aqib Talib, second-round wide receiver Dexter Jackson, third-round guard Jeremy Zuttah, and fifth-round quarterback Josh Johnson.
Hayes, a 6-1, 226-pound linebacker out of Florida State, was the 175th pick overall in last Aprilâ€™s draft. In 35 games at FSU, he recorded 156 tackles, eight sacks, 29.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and seven passes defensed. He scored two touchdowns, one on an interception return and one on a blocked punt recovery.
As a junior in 2007, Hayes earned All-ACC recognition after starting 12 games at weakside linebacker. He was originally slated to move into the middle, but eventually ended up at his familiar position on the outside and finished the season with 80 tackles, five sacks and 17.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Bennett, a defensive end the Buccaneers drafted in the seventh round in 2006, spent all of last season on injured reserve after tearing a knee ligament in an offseason workout. He played in three games as a rookie in â€™06, recording two tackles.
Economos handled all of the Bucsâ€™ long-snapping duties on both punts and placekicks in 2007. He had a brief cameo in that same role in â€™06, snapping in three games before sustaining a season-ending injury. He first entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2005.
Lucas spent most of last season on the Bucsâ€™ practice squad, though he earned promotions to the active roster on two different occasions. At seasonâ€™s end, he not only got called up but also started the 2007 finale against Carolina, hauling in five passes for 82 yards. Originally an undrafted free agent with the Tennessee Titans in 2004, Lucas spent most of the 2005 season on the Green Bay Packersâ€™ practice squad and a portion of 2006 on the Bucsâ€™ practice squad.
Nicholson was a fifth-round draft pick of the Buccaneers in 2005. He appeared in nine games as a rookie, contributing one pass break-up on defense and nine tackles on special teams. Nicholson has bounced on and off of Tampa Bayâ€™s roster over the past two years, playing in two games over that span.