G Jeb Terry played primarily on special teams in his second season but battled hard for a starting spot in training camp
Even with the draft just days away, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to take care of loose ends in free agency.
On Friday, the team announced the re-signing of third-year guard Jeb Terry. Terry had become an exclusive rights free agent on March 11; as such, his return to the Buccaneers was a virtual certainty. If extended the necessary tender offer, an exclusive free agent may only negotiate with his original team. Players fall into this category when their contracts expire but they have accrued fewer than three seasons of free agency credit.
Even if expected, the return of Terry is good news for the Buccaneers, who have paid quite a bit of attention to the offensive line since the beginning of free agency. Along with the additions of guard Toniu Fonoti and tackle Torrin Tucker, the Bucs have re-signed four of their own linemen from last season, all of whom became free agents on March 11. Kenyatta Walker, an unrestricted free agent, re-signed on March 24; Sean Mahan, a restricted free agent, inked a new deal last Wednesday; and Anthony Davis, an exclusive rights free agent like Terry, returned on May 10.
Walker, Mahan and Davis were three of the five linemen who set a team record by starting all 16 games of one season together in 2005. That relegated Terry to a reserve role, but the team remains high on the former fifth-round pick out of North Carolina. Terry, in fact, almost won a starting job last summer in just his second training camp with the team.
The 6-5, 311-pound Terry played primarily on special teams in 2005, appearing in all 16 games. He got into four games in the same capacity as a rookie in 2004. At North Carolina, Terry started at guard for three seasons and went his entire senior year without allowing a sack.
The Buccaneers drafted Terry with the 146th overall pick in 2004.
Tampa Bay has now re-signed 10 of the 16 players from its 2005 roster that became free agents of some ilk in March. Four have departed for other teams, leaving just two more exclusive rights free agents to be signed: running back Earnest Graham and wide receiver Edell Shepherd.
The University of South Florida gave birth to its football program in 1997 and produced its first NFL draft pick in 2001. Actually, the Bulls sent three players into the draft that year, and in memorable fashion, as the first three selections of the second day – that is, picks one through three of the fourth round – were USF products Kenyatta Jones, Anthony Henry and Bill Gramatica. Three more Bulls were drafted in 2003 and another in 2004, but the school was shut out last spring.
That drought is likely to end at just one year, as most analysts expect USF running back Andre Hall to come off the board somewhere near the middle of the seven rounds. If he were to sneak into the third round, Hall would become the second-highest drafted Bull ever, after linebacker Kawika Mitchell, a second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2003.
According to Buccaneers Director of College Scouting Dennis Hickey, who personally attended a recent Hall workout, the quick-footed USF back could give the team that drafts him good return on its invested pick.
"We like Andre," said Hickey. "He's a very good back. He's had 1,000 yards at every place he's been. He's got quickness, he's got great hands, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and return kicks. He's a multi-faceted player. He's exciting. He's going to be a good back in the league."
As a senior at USF last fall, Hall carried the ball 210 times and gained 1,357 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He logged 270 totes as a junior, racking up 1,374 yards and 5.1 per carry. Hickey didn't specifically predict whether Hall would end up as a feature back or a third-down type of contributor on the professional level, in part because it depends on where he ends up in the NFL.
"I think he's going to be a good back, but the thing that he brings is versatility," said Hickey. "He's going to give you a lot of options out of the backfield."
Hall will undoubtedly take a hit on some scouting reports because he stands "only" 5-8 and weighs about 210 pounds. The Buccaneers, however, don't let those type of measurables affect their opinion of a back – witness the very successful selections of Warrick Dunn and Cadillac Williams.
"I think with running backs that's overrated, the height," said Hickey. "You'd rather have leverage. You don't want a tall back. You want somebody who can carry his pads and have a nice, low center of gravity. A lot of times, that's an advantage, to be short."
Gets Them in Bunches
North Carolina State's Mario Williams will likely be drafted among the first four picks on Saturday because he represents one of the NFL's most precious commodities – an unstoppable edge rusher.
Many scouts believe the big and speedy Williams will become just that on the next level, giving some team a Julius Peppers type of weapon. If so, he will prove well worth the high pick that is spent on him.
The Bucs have had such a player at the heart of their defense over the last five seasons, but they picked him up through free agency, not the draft. That, obviously, is Simeon Rice, and of course Rice was the third overall pick of the 1996 draft, by Arizona. In his five years as a Buccaneer, Rice has averaged 13.5 sacks per season.
Many of Rice's 67.5 sacks as a Buc have come in bunches, and that was the subject of a statistical nugget recently dug up by the team's public relations department. The task was to determine where Rice's multi-sack games (two or more) ranked among the franchise's all-time pass-rushing greats. Not too surprisingly, Rice tops the list, though he just took over the number-one spot with his two multi-sack games to end the 2005 regular season. Those efforts against Atlanta and New Orleans were the 19th and 20th multi-sack games in Rice's five years in Tampa, moving him past the first great pass-rusher in franchise history, Lee Roy Selmon.
Selmon, by the way, was the first overall pick in the 1976 draft.
Here are the Buccaneers' all-time leaders in games with two more sacks:
- Simeon Rice (20) 2. Lee Roy Selmon (19) 3. Warren Sapp (18) 4. Broderick Thomas (7) 5. David Logan (6) 6. Chidi Ahanotu (5) 7. Brad Culpepper (4) 7. Ron Holmes (4) 7. Marcus Jones (4) 10. Santana Dotson (3) 10. Ray Seals (3) 10. Chris Washington (3) 10. Steve White (3)
Rice has played 79 games since joining the Buccaneers as a free agent in 2001. That means he is good for a multi-sack game at least once every four weekends. Now that's a weapon.