S Will Allen's hard-hitting ways have helped the Buccaneers most on special teams
Will Allen was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' special teams captain in 2008. For that reason, he's sure to appreciate his new teammate, Niko Koutouvides.
On Monday, the Buccaneers announced the signings of Allen and Koutouvides, the former a safety who has spent his first five seasons in Tampa, the latter a linebacker who was most recently with the Denver Broncos. Koutouvides, like Allen, is considered a force on special teams...or as the Buccaneers like to call it, the "we-fense."
Monday's signings marked the third and fourth bits of player-acquisition news for the Buccaneers since the beginning of the 2009 free agency period last week. On Friday, the team acquired tight end from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for undisclosed draft picks. On Sunday, Tampa Bay signed the first of its own unrestricted free agents, wide receiver Michael Clayton.
The Buccaneers began the free agency period with 10 unrestricted free agents of their own, and have now re-signed two of them. As of last Friday, those men were free to negotiate and sign with any team.
Koutouvides became a free agent on February 16 when he was released by the Denver Broncos. He had played one season of the three-year pact he had signed with the Broncos as an unrestricted free agent last March. Koutouvides played his first four NFL seasons with the Seattle Seahawks after arriving as a fourth-round pick in 2004.
Allen and Koutouvides were actually selected just five picks apart in 2004, as the Buccaneers nabbed the former Ohio State safety with the 111th overall pick and the Seahawks took the former Purdue linebacker at 116. Not only do the two share Big Ten and draft-day roots, but they both have carved out a niche in the NFL as outstanding special teamers and valuable defensive reserves.
The 6-1, 200-pound Allen started 24 games during the 2005-06 seasons, most of them at free safety. He is capable of filling in at either safety spot and has 152 defensive tackles in 60 career games. In 2006, he started all 16 games and recorded a career-high 83 tackles, and in 2005 he set a career-best mark with three interceptions while opening eight games.
No matter what his role on defense, Allen has always shined on defense, as evidenced by his selection as a captain by his teammates last summer. In five seasons, he has racked up 62 kick-coverage stops, including a career-best 21 in 2008. Allen ranked second to linebacker Quincy Black (24 special teams tackles) last year and also added a forced fumble in the kicking game. In his career, he has forced two fumbles, recovered two and scored one touchdown on a recovery in special teams action.
Koutouvides has been equally productive on special teams, with 69 kick-coverage stops over his five seasons, and another eight in eight postseason contests. He set a career high with 20 special teams tackles in 2007, his final year in Seattle.
The 6-2, 238-pound linebacker saw his most extensive action on defense as a rookie with the Seahawks, drawing two starts in 2004 and contributing 46 tackles and a sack. Overall, Koutouvides has 54 tackles, one sack and one pass defensed in 73 career games.
Last year, Koutouvides was a reserve in Denver, pitching in with two tackles on defense as a backup at weakside linebacker. He also finished third on the team, just two behind co-leaders Karl Paymah and Wesley Woodyard, with nine stops on special teams.
The Buccaneers have always placed an emphasis on special teams and were reminded frequently in 2008 of the importance of depth in that phase of the game. Among the key special teams contributors who missed all or large parts of the 2008 season due to injuries were Torrie Cox, Geno Hayes, Antoine Cash, Maurice Stovall and Byron Storer.