Tampa Bay Buccaneers

More Help Up Front: Bucs Sign TE Gilmore

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TE John Gilmore built a reputation as a rugged blocker during six seasons in Chicago

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are building a different look up front.

Putting it a better way, perhaps, the Buccaneers are continuing to work on what has clearly been the team's top priority over the last few years. It's no coincidence that the Buccaneers' first two forays into the 2008 free agent market have brought back help for the offensive blocking unit.

One day after opening free agency with the signing of a new starting center, Jeff Faine, Tampa Bay announced on Saturday that it has also added tight end John Gilmore, an unrestricted free agent formerly of the Chicago Bears. (The Bucs have also re-signed one of their own free agents, linebacker Antoine Cash.) Though he had just 21 catches in his six seasons in Chicago, Gilmore also built a reputation as a rugged and athletic blocker up front.

As is team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The 6-5, 257-pound Gilmore does have good hands and could find his pass-catching opportunities on the rise in Tampa, where Head Coach Jon Gruden has made great use of two-tight end sets in recent seasons. Tampa Bay tight ends combined for 55 catches in 2007, led by Alex Smith's 32. Smith returns for his fourth season in the Bucs' system but the team's other two tight ends, Anthony Becht and Jerramy Stevens, became unrestricted free agents on Friday.

Gilmore will put himself in position for more work in the passing game if his blocking at the point of attack is strong, and of that the Bucs have little doubt. The seventh-year player out of Penn State combines his impressive size with surprisingly nimble feet, allowing him to quickly get into position for his blocks and to open holes on the run.

Gilmore also developed into an asset on special teams with the Bears, playing on numerous kick and return units and posting 30 tackles over the last six seasons.

The Bears originally picked up Gilmore just before the 2002 season after he had been waived by the New Orleans Saints. Gilmore spent six weeks on the practice but was then added to the active roster and was a starter by the end of the season. As a rookie, he played in eight games with four starts and posted a career-high 10 receptions for 130 yards. The Saints drafted Gilmore in the sixth round (196th overall) in 2002.

Over the next five seasons, he missed just two games. Though he primarily played in two-TE sets on offense, Gilmore appeared in 78 games from 2003-07, starting six. Last season, he played 15 games, made one start and pitched in with three receptions for 14 yards.

Gilmore was more involved in the passing game during his Nittany Lions career. A four-year letter-winner, he caught 58 passes for 634 yards and three touchdowns. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten choice as a senior after posting a career-high 25 receptions for 284 yards.

The 28-year-old Gilmore hails from West Lawn, PA.

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