On Monday, TE James Whalen (pictured) and S David Gibson became the first two Buc draft picks to sign
The relative silence coming out of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' personnel department in recent days ended with a bang on Monday.
You want rookie signings? You got it. Fifth-round TE James Whalen and sixth-round S David Gibson agreed to three-year deals on Monday afternoon, becoming the first two Buccaneer draftees to come to terms.
You want veteran signings? No problem. Exclusive rights free agent safety Shevin Smith also came by to sign a one-year deal on Monday, meaning he can report to training camp when it opens on Sunday, July 23.
You want new players? Got that covered, too. As reported on Buccaneers.com earlier Monday, the team signed NFL Europe League standout Chartric Darby, a defensive tackle originally from the University of South Carolina. Click here to read more about Darby.
The Bucs selected five players in last April's NFL draft, having traded their two first-round picks to the New York Jets for WR Keyshawn Johnson, who then agreed to a new eight-year deal. The team also traded its fourth-round pick during the draft in order to move up in the second round and secure Coleman.
That means the Bucs have just three draft picks left to sign before the opening of camp: Coleman, third-round linebacker Nate Webster and seventh-round quarterback Joe Hamilton. General Manager Rich McKay, who presided over Monday's whirlwind of activity, does not anticipate a long delay in those three following suit.
"The signing of our draft picks is a process that should be completed before training camp," said McKay, "allowing us to have all of our players under contract and ready to go."
Whalen hauled in 90 passes for Kentucky in 1999, setting a new NCAA single-season record for receptions by a tight end. He also showed a strong ability to gain yards after the catch and a nose for the end zone, with 10 touchdowns last year. Whalen hopes to be a natural fit in new offensive coordinator Les Steckel's offense, which finds numerous opportunities for tight ends and H-backs.
Gibson played just one year at safety at USC after converting from linebacker in his senior season. He retains a linebacker's aggressive tackling skills, posting 81 stops in 1999, but he also took well to pass coverage with 10 passes defensed. During the Bucs' mini-camp and offseason workouts, Gibson also displayed valuable special teams skills.
Smith is already established as one of the Bucs' most productive special teamers, having made 21 kick-coverage tackles in two seasons in Tampa Bay, including 18 last year to rank third on the squad. Like Gibson, Smith was a sixth-round draft choice of the Buccaneers when he was selected in 1998. As a veteran of two seasons, Smith became an 'exclusive rights' free agent at the end of 1999, meaning he could negotiate only with the Buccaneers.
NFL rosters are limited to 80 players for training camp, although NFL Europe exemptions can increase that number slightly. While unsigned players may sign waivers to participate in offseason mini-camps and voluntary workouts, only players under contract may report to training camp. In addition to the remaining draft picks, the Bucs have also yet to re-sign TE Patrick Hape, a restricted free agent, and T Paul Gruber, an unrestricted free agent. Gruber is rehabilitating a broken leg suffered at the end of the 1999 season, and he and the team have not yet determined his status. The team reports to training camp at the University of Tampa in 13 days.