Thirteen players graduated from the practice squad to the active roster with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 2010 season. Eight more will get an opportunity to do the same in 2011.
On Tuesday, the Buccaneers announced the re-signing of the eight players who finished the 2010 season on the team's practice squad: safety Vince Anderson, guard Marc Dile, linebacker J.D. Folsom, wide receiver Ed Gant, linebacker Simoni Lawrence, center/guard John Malecki, fullback Rendrick Taylor and defensive end E.J. Wilson.
The contracts for all practice squad players in the NFL expire as soon as their team is eliminated from Super Bowl contention; for the Buccaneers, that was after Sunday's season-ending victory at New Orleans. All eight players signed what are known as "futures" contracts, which essentially mean they take effect when the next league year begins in March.
With the retention of their final eight practice squad players and the eventual return of 13 men who finished the season on injured reserve, the Buccaneers will head into the offseason with a good start on the process of rebuilding the roster back to 80 players.
"We talked about [that] in our team meeting," said Head Coach Raheem Morris. "We talked about all the injured reserve guys coming back and all the players that we have on our team. Signing all of our practice squad players and getting all the guys back in the house – it's going to be a really competitive environment again. We've really done a great job of stocking the building with a bunch of young guys that can play and now we're going to let them go out and compete."
The Buccaneers have already found their practice squad to be fertile ground for helpful talent this season. The 13 players who made it onto the active roster at some point after spending time on Tampa Bay's practice squad were Anderson, tackle Will Barker, wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe, guard Brandon Carter, guard Derek Hardman, cornerback D.J. Johnson, defensive end George Johnson, fullback Erik Lorig, linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, defensive tackle Frank Okam, tight end Nathan Overbay, tight end Ryan Purvis and defensive tackle Doug Worthington.
In the Bucs' season-ending win over the Saints, Hardman started at right guard, Okam started at defensive tackle, McKenzie had two stops on special teams and Briscoe led all Tampa Bay receivers with four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.
The 6-2, 205-pound Anderson first joined the Buccaneers during training camp on August 10. He started the season on Tampa Bay's practice squad but was promoted to the active roster on November 30 after Cody Grimm was lost to injured reserve and Sabby Piscitelli was released. Anderson saw action in three games, contributing three special teams tackles, before being released on December 21 and added back to the practice squad.
Anderson first entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the New York Giants in 2009 and spent his rookie season on the Giants' practice squad. He played cornerback at Webber International, an NAIA school located in Polk County, Florida, but was converted to safety after joining the Giants. He is the first player from Webber, a school of about 600 students, ever to appear in the NFL.
Dile (6-4, 300) first entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of the nearby University of South Florida in 2009 and, with the exception of two weeks on the Buffalo Bills' practice squad this December, has spent all of his time with the Buccaneers. He made the team out of training camp as a rookie but was inactive for the first five games before spending the rest of the season on the practice squad. After being waived this past September after a second training camp with the Buccaneers, Dile returned to the team on December 16, just after he was waived by the Bills. A three-year starter at tackle for the Bulls, Dile tied a school record with 51 games played during his collegiate career.
Folsom had two runs on Tampa Bay's practice squad this season, first signing with the team on September 28. That stint lasted one week plus the bye week before his release on October 11. He then returned for the final three weeks of the campaign. Folsom (6-3, 230) was originally drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round in 2009. He spent the majority of his rookie season on Miami's practice squad but was twice promoted to the active roster, appearing in two games. He spent the 2010 offseason with the Chicago Bears. Folsom played two seasons at Weber State, appearing in 23 games and recording 149 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and one interception.
The 6-3, 200-pound Gant had five weeks to display his skills on the Bucs' practice squad after signing on November 30. He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Arizona in 2009 and spent all of his rookie season and a portion of the 2010 campaign on the Cardinals' practice squad before his release on November 16. After transferring to North Alabama following two seasons at Southwest Mississippi Community College, Gant played in 26 games and registered 45 receptions for 865 yards and four touchdowns. A native of Ft. Myers, Florida, he is the brother of former Buccaneer cornerback Phillip Buchanon and the cousin of former Major League Baseball outfielder Ron Gant.
Lawrence only signed with the Buccaneers in the final week of the season, catching about two practices, but the move was obviously made while by his re-signing to a futures contract. The rookie out of the University of Minnesota originally signed as an undrafted free agent with the St. Louis Rams, but was then released, only to catch on with the Philadelphia Eagles. Lawrence went to training camp with the Eagles but was waived at the end of August. In mid-December, the Chicago Bears signed him to their practice squad, where he spent the next two weeks. He was then let go by the Bears just in time for the Bucs to grab him for the final week. The 6-1, 221-pound Lawrence played two seasons at Minnesota, racking up 151 tackles, six sacks, two interceptions and two touchdowns. In 2009, he served as a defensive co-captain for the Gophers, earning All-Big Ten honorable mention accolades in the process.
The 6-2, 304-pound Malecki originally entered the NFL this past spring with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent, and also later saw time with Cleveland in August. He signed with the Buccaneers on October 26, was later released on November 17 and then returned on December 1. Malecki played in 40 games with 27 starts during his collegiate career at Pittsburgh, starting out at defensive tackle before switching to offense for his last two campaigns. In 2008 and 2009, he started 26 consecutive games at right guard, earning first-team All-Big East honors as a senior. Malecki was also named the Panthers' Most Improved Offensive Player in 2008 and was twice named to the Big East's All-Academic team.
Taylor first caught the Buccaneers' eye when he participated in their post-draft rookie mini-camp on a tryout contract in May. Taylor was one of a handful of prospects intriguing enough in that camp to earn a spot on the 80-man offseason roster, and he remained with the team through training camp before being waived in the final roster cutdown on September 4. He returned to the practice squad on December 8.
At 6-2 and a very solid 265 pounds, Taylor looks like a fullback but actually played wide receiver during his first three years at Clemson. He caught 46 passes for 480 yards and one touchdown during those three seasons but was asked to convert to fullback in 2009 after missing the 2008 season due to injury. In his new role he ran 13 times for 37 yards and caught eight passes for 53 yards but most importantly served as a lead-blocker for C.J. Spiller, who rushed for 1,271 yards. Spiller was eventually drafted ninth overall by the Buffalo Bills.
Wilson was drafted in the fourth round by Seattle this past spring, selected 127th overall. The 6-2, 289-pound defensive end made the Seahawks' opening day roster and appeared in two games this season, while being declared inactive for eight others. He was waived on November 24 and signed with the Buccaneers' practice squad the following week. Wilson started for three seasons at North Carolina, opening 32 consecutive games to end his collegiate career. He finished with 150 tackles, 12 sacks, 29 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles, including four sacks and 12 tackles for loss as a senior.