Former Raider Matt Stinchcomb has started at center, guard and tackle
It appears as if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive line will have a new look in 2004. At the very least, there will be intense competition for jobs.
Early Friday evening, near the end of three very busy days of free agency shopping, the Buccaneers finalized the signing of former Raider lineman Matt Stinchcomb. As is team policy, details of the contract were not released by the team.
Like Derrick Deese, the lineman inked by Tampa Bay on Thursday, Stinchcomb is a highly-regarded veteran with the versatility to play at several different spots on the offensive line. Stinchcomb also gives the Bucs' front wall an instant infusion of size; at 6-6, 310 pounds, he immediately becomes the biggest lineman the team has.
"Matt is another versatile addition to our offensive line," said Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden. "We are excited about what he will bring to the Buccaneers."
The Bucs have already signed or re-signed five free agents since the market opened on Wednesday, but the team's primary focus is obviously on the offensive line. Even though the team has not lost any of its 2003 starters (guard Cosey Coleman is an unrestricted free agent), it has quickly added two veterans with extensive starting experience in Stinchcomb and Deese. The fact that Deese has played all five positions on the line and Stinchcomb has started at left tackle, left guard and center, it is not yet obvious who will line up where.
Stinchcomb, who arrived in Tampa on Thursday, was clearly one of the Bucs' primary targets in free agency. He is a known commodity to Gruden, who was the Raiders' head coach in 1999 when the Georgia standout was drafted by Oakland in the first round. Though he lost his rookie season to a shoulder injury, Stinchcomb moved into the starting lineup in 2000, playing in all 16 games and opening nine. He started the first eight games at left tackle before re-injuring his shoulder. He was part of a Raiders line that blocked for the league's top rushing offense, an attack that produced 154.4 yards per game on the ground.
Stinchcomb was thrilled to be reunited with his first head coach.
"This is a great opportunity for me," he said. "I am excited to be back with Coach Gruden and to work with (Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line) Coach Bill Muir."
Stinchcomb was primarily a reserve in 2001, making one start at left tackle. The following year he started six games at left guard as the Raiders advanced to Super Bowl XXXVII against Gruden and the Buccaneers. In that final game, Stinchcomb saw action as an extra tight end on the offensive line on short-yardage downs.
Stinchcomb was taking on a greater role for the Raiders in 2003 before he was struck by a shoulder injury again. He won an intense training camp battle with Adam Treu for the starting center job and eventually played in six games and made four starts, three at center and one at left guard. He was placed on injured reserve on November 12.
At Georgia, Stinchcomb was a four-year letterwinner and a two-time All-American, as well as a two-time Academic All-American. He hails from Lilburn, Georgia.
Bruce Allen, who was the Raiders' senior assistant when Stinchcomb was drafted in '99, conceded before the start of free agency that the offensive line was a point of concern for the Bucs. Now Tampa Bay's general manager, Allen has wasted no time in addressing that position with the additions of Deese and Stinchcomb.
The Buccaneers' ranked 10th in the NFL in overall offense in 2003 but 24th in rushing. The team also set a franchise record for penalty yardage, a good percentage of it coming on flags directed at the offensive line.