Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Reloading the Roster

The Buccaneers announced the signings of 29 players to “reserve/future” contracts on Thursday, giving the roster an influx of talent to prepare for the offseason

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CB James Patrick, a rookie in 2005 who spent the entire season on the Bucs' practice squad, was one of 29 players signed or re-signed to reserve/future contracts

You might think that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' annual signings in January are secondary concerns, and it's true that last year they were.

In fact, one fifth of the Buccaneers' secondary in 2005 was comprised of players signed by the team the previous January 14. Safety Kalvin Pearson and cornerback Blue Adams were among 14 free agents the team added on that day, and both made the active roster and contributed heavily on special teams the following fall. Another one of those 14 men, kicker Todd France, performed very well in training camp and was later called back to fill in when an injury forced kicker Matt Bryant to miss a game in early December.

The Bucs also signed 14 players on January 14 in 2004, and that group included running back Earnest Graham, who is still with the team now, and wide receiver Frank Murphy, who made the opening day roster in the fall of '04. In other words, as unfamiliar as some of these names may have been to Buccaneer fans at the time, the signings made each January are significant.

These players are signed to "reserve/future" contracts. In effect, that means they are being signed for the 2006 season even though that season does not officially begin until March. Only players who were not on any NFL team's active roster when the 2005 season ended are eligible for such signings; if they were under contract, then they would remain so until March. Players who were on practice squads at the end of the season are eligible to sign with any team.

This year, the Bucs have broken their 14-players-on-the-14th pattern to more than double their usual January rations. On Thursday, the 12th, the team announced the signing of 29 new players, a long and varied list that includes help at every single position on the depth chart, including punter and kicker. Nineteen of the 29 newcomers are not really newcomers; they have been with the Buccaneers at some point in the recent past. That includes all eight players who finished the 2005 season on Tampa Bay's practice squad: wide receivers Larry Brackins, J.R. Russell and Paris Warren, offensive linemen Jonathan Clinkscale and Stefan Rodgers, linebackers Antoine Cash, cornerback James Patrick, and defensive end Andrew Williams.

Here is the complete list of players signed by the Buccaneers to 2006 reserve/future contracts, as announced on Thursday:

**Pos.****Player****College****NFL Notes**
QBJared AllenFlorida AtlanticBucs' training camp '05
TE/LSMark AnelliWisconsinN.Y. Giants' practice squad '04
KXavier BettiaFlorida StateN.Y. Jets' training camp '05
GPhil BogleNew HavenStarter w/Chargers in '03
WRLarry BrackinsPearl River C.C. 2005 5th-rd. draft pick
CBJonte BuhlTexas A&MFalcons' training camp '05
SSteve CargileColumbiaCowboys' practice squad '05
LBAntoine CashSouthern MissBucs' practice squad '05
GJonathan ClinkscaleWisconsinBucs' practice squad '05
FBCarey DavisIllinoisBucs' practice squad '05
FBRobert DouglasMemphisTEN/HOU practice squad '05
WRChas GessnerBrownN.Y. Jets practice squad '05
WRB.J. JohnsonTexasDenver training camp '05
RBJacque LewisNorth CarolinaBucs' training camp '05
TSam LightbodyWashington StateBucs' training camp '05
WRDerek McCoyColoradoBucs' training camp '05
DTLynn McGruderOklahomaBucs' training camp '05
CJason NerysDelawareNYJ/WAS/HOU practice squad '05
CBJames PatrickStillmanBucs' practice squad '05
FBRick RazzanoMississippi2005 7th-rd. draft pick
TStefan RodgersLambuthBucs' practice squad '05
WRJ.R. RussellLouisville2005 7th-rd. draft pick
KMike ShaferSyracuseBills' training camp '04
PBrian SimnjanovskiSan Diego StateBucs' training camp '05
WRTerrence StubbsTempleN.Y. Jets practice squad '04
WRParis WarrenUtah2005 7th-rd. draft pick
DEAndrew WilliamsMiamiBucs' practice squad '05
TTodd WilliamsFlorida StateTitan's active roster, '03-04
DTKeith WrightMissouriBucs' active roster '04

The list includes four members of the Bucs' 2005 draft class: Brackins, Razzano, Russell and Warren. Others who participated in Tampa Bay's 2005 training camp include Allen, Bogle, Clinkscale, Lewis, Lightbody, McCoy, McGruder, Patrick and Simnjanovski. Cash, Davis, Rodgers and Williams were added to the Bucs' practice squad at some point after the start of the regular season. Wright was released just prior to training camp. Nerys appeared on the Bucs' practice squad in 2004.

As usual, the list is heavy on wide receivers, as this is a position that expands greatly during the offseason. Though the Bucs have most commonly carried five or six receivers during the regular season, they often have up to 14 during the offseason, in part because a lot of wideouts are needed to handle all of the necessary practice reps.

The Bucs are obviously familiar with the receivers from their 2005 draft class, as well as McCoy, who first appeared on the team's active roster in the middle of 2004 and later was sent over by Tampa Bay to the NFL Europe League. Among the newcomers are B.J. Johnson, who was one of Chris Simms' favorite targets at Texas in 2002, and Chas Gessner, a Brown product who is the second-leading receiver in Ivy League history.

In fact, with players from Brown, Columbia, Stillman, Pearl River Community College, Delaware, New Haven, Lambuth and Florida Atlantic, the list reflects some very in-depth scouting. Of course, such big programs as Texas, Florida State, Oklahoma and Wisconsin are also represented.

There is a strong chance that a subset of this group will become the team's 2006 NFL Europe contingent. The Buccaneers will not announce for several more weeks which of its players will be allocated to that spring league but, generally, the majority of those selected come from among the players signed to reserve/future contracts.

Allowing teams to sign players to 2004 contracts as soon as 2003 is over is a concession to the fact that not every team's season ends on the same day. All teams may begin signing 'futures' free agents after the regular season has concluded, even if they are still competing in the playoffs. Had the Bucs beaten Washington on Saturday, they still could have signed the 29 players above without it affecting their active roster or their 2005 salary cap. This keeps teams that are eliminated from the playoffs from gaining an unfair advantage over the ones still vying for the Super Bowl.

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