T Roman Oben will be joining his fourth NFL team in San Diego after spending the past two seasons in Tampa
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have eased a logjam on the offensive line and opened up a bit of breathing room on their training camp roster by trading veteran offensive tackle Roman Oben to the San Diego Chargers.
In return, the Buccaneers received San Diego's 2005 fifth-round draft choice.
"We certainly wish him well," said Head Coach Jon Gruden of Oben. "He did a great job for us. He was a leader here and I think the situation in San Diego is good for him. They need his help and we're going to give Derrick Deese an opportunity to be a left tackle here and (we're going) to give some of the younger guys opportunities to become the back-up left tackle. We wish him well. He's a great guy. We'll miss him."
Oben played two seasons in Tampa, appearing in 34 games and started 32 (including playoffs) at left tackle. He started all 19 games in 2002 as the Buccaneers advanced to and won Super Bowl XXXVII. Coincidentally, that Super Bowl was played in San Diego.
However, the Buccaneers aggressively sought improvements on the offensive line this spring, signing four experienced front-line starters, including three who have played left tackle: Derrick Deese, Todd Steussie and Matt Stinchcomb. Tampa Bay also re-signed free agent guard Cosey Coleman and selected guard/tackle Jeb Terry in the fifth round of April's draft. Before the trade of Oben, the Bucs had 19 offensive linemen on the roster, including such 2002 and 2003 starters as Coleman, Kenyatta Walker, Jason Whittle, Kerry Jenkins and John Wade.
"We made a trade that we felt can help our team," said Buccaneers General Manager Bruce Allen. "This conversation started a few weeks ago. They had a great need for a player like Roman. Really, from Roman's standpoint, in particular, it works out good for him. We like where we are with the guys we acquired. This will allow them to get more repetition and from Roman's standpoint it will be good for him. I'll let (the Chargers) speak for how they feel, but I think it's positive."
The versatility of many of the Bucs' linemen further increases the team's depth and made the decision to trade Oben easier.
"Roman was a left tackle; he wasn't a swing guy," said Gruden. "He was a left tackle. He'll be a left tackle in San Diego. We have some versatility with Anthony Davis and Kenyatta Walker, who has played both sides. Matt Stinchcomb came into the league as a left tackle. He's got a number of starts at that position. You've got a guy named (Todd) Steussie playing over there on the right side, who could also play left tackle."
Even after Wednesday's trade, the Bucs have a bloated roster. Including the six players allocated to NFL Europe and the eight as-of-yet unsigned draft choices from April, Tampa Bay's roster currently runs 94 deep. Players competing in the NFLEL earn their teams roster exemptions, and draft choices do not count against the training camp limit until they are signed. Still, the Bucs will eventually need to make additional moves in order to have roster space once their rookies are signed.
As for the value of the pick obtained from San Diego, one could argue that the Buccaneers received a very worthwhile commodity. Tampa Bay's own fifth-round draft history in recent years has been quite good.
The team's 2004 fifth-rounder, Terry, has not yet had an opportunity to prove himself, but the 2003 fifth-round choice, guard Sean Mahan, impressed the coaching staff as a rookie and is thought to have a strong future. The Bucs' 2002 fifth-rounder, safety Jermaine Phillips, will start at strong safety this season after playing extensively in 2003.