TE Dave Moore's versatile talents have made him a fan favorite in Tampa Bay
It's been a long, strange trip for this Buccaneer, but one that keeps getting better. On Monday, tight end Dave Moore's career in Tampa took another positive turn when he re-signed with the Buccaneers for the next three years.
Moore, who once had annual concerns about the training camp bubble, has developed into one of the league's most well-rounded tight ends and one of the Bucs' more productive players. After a little more than seven seasons in a Tampa Bay uniform, he became an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 1999 season, his second as the team's primary starter. Though he did test the market in the weeks since the free agency period began on February 11, Moore chose to return to Tampa, where he has built a strong following among fans who appreciate his full-effort style.
In the end, Moore revealed that he really didn't dive too deep into the free agent waters. "Unfortunately, (the Bucs) know I want to stay here, they know I'm a fan of Coach Dungy and they know I spend my entire offseason fishing," said Moore with a laugh. "So I really had nowhere to go. I'm happy to be back and I'm excited to be a part of our new offense under the new coordinator. I'm looking forward to meeting him and getting back into the groove of things."
General Manager Rich McKay is happy with Moore's return as well, and pleased that the Bucs have achieved another important portion of their 2000 offseason plan. "Re-signing Dave was one of our offseason priorities," said McKay. "He has been an extremely durable and productive player for our offense."
That seems to be more and more true each season. Last year, Moore led the Buccaneers with a career-high five touchdown receptions and also tallied a career-best 276 yards on 23 receptions. Since joining the team as a free agent off the Miami Dolphins' practice squad in November of 1992, Moore has refined and improved his game virtually every season. After recording just nine catches in his first three Buccaneer campaigns, Moore pushed that total to 13 in 1995, then improved it to a career-best 27 in '96. He has averaged 23 receptions, 246 receiving yards and four touchdowns over the past four years.
He is the only Buccaneer with at least three touchdown grabs in each of the last four years, evidence of his ever-growing scoring touch. In fact, Moore's 17 TDs tie for fifth on Tampa Bay's all-time list, and he has scored on a remarkable 14.8% of his career receptions. That's the highest scoring rate in team history among players with at least 40 catches.
Moore is also regarded as an outstanding blocker, a trait that kept him on the team for several seasons in the mid-90s. In fact, Moore proved to be such a proficient blocker as the team's second tight end in 1994 that he was moved into a hybrid fullback/H-back role by Head Coach in Sam Wyche in order to get Moore in the backfield more often. Head Coach Tony Dungy moved Moore back into a traditional tight end role upon Dungy's arrival in 1996, and Moore has prospered despite a system that has not placed great emphasis on receptions from his position. Moore's return to the Buccaneers could lead to even greater things over the next three seasons, as new Tampa Bay Offensive Coordinator Les Steckel has used the tight end extensively in his offense with the Tennessee Titans.
Overall, Moore ranks 16th on the team's career receptions list with 115 catches for 1,201 yards in 114 career games as a Buccaneer (62 starts). He has also played in 87 consecutive games and started the last 33.
Though Tampa Bay has employed a player specifically to handle the long-snapping over the past two seasons, Moore is also adept at that skill and was the team's primary special teams snapper for several seasons in the mid-90s. His wide range of contributions also include 14 career special teams tackles and two kickoff returns for 27 yards.
Perhaps the most spectacular moment of a career more distinguishable for its grit than its flash was an acrobatic touchdown catch against the Chicago Bears on September 20, 1998. The Buccaneers played their first-ever game in Raymond James Stadium that afternoon, and were in danger of making a disappointing home debut after falling behind 15-0 by halftime. A furious second-half rally resulted in a 27-15 Bucs win, but the comeback probably would have fallen short if not for Moore's twisting, one-handed catch of an overthrown ball and the resulting race down the sideline which resulted in Moore's dive into the end zone.
Though that moment was more dramatic than most of his accomplishments, it also called attention to his excellent hands, which have allowed him to make a string of crucial plays throughout his Buc career. On Monday, however, Moore mostly just shook hands with members of the Buccaneer brass, all of whom were glad to have him back in the fold.