WR Sammie Stroughter has impressed on the practice field during his short time as a Buccaneer
Tampa Bay Buccaneers players and coaches began their six-week pre-training camp break on Friday, but the team's player personnel department went right back to work.
Continuing the trend of early negotiations with their draft picks – which in itself is a break from the pattern of recent summers – the Buccaneers signed seventh-round wide receiver Sammie Stroughter on Friday. As is team policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed.
After signing his deal, Stroughter counted against the Buccaneers' 80-man offseason roster limit. Therefore, the team also had to release at least one player in order to make room for Stroughter. The Bucs actually released three players on Friday: first-year wide receiver Amarri Jackson, first-year linebacker Jamall Johnson and rookie cornerback Evan McCollough.
The Buccaneers now have a third of their 2009 draft class under contract, having signed fifth-round tackle last Wednesday. Typically, the team had waited until the week before training camp to finalize deals with its incoming rookies. Players selected in the draft are allowed to participate in offseason workouts with their new teams before signing a contract; however, they may not attend training camp until that first NFL deal is in place.
Still looking to complete contract negotiations are quarterback Josh Freeman (first round), defensive tackle Roy Miller (third), defensive end Kyle Moore (fourth) and cornerback E.J. Biggers (seventh). The Bucs may continue to be aggressive in completing these deals well before the July 31 reporting date for training camp.
Though he was limited by a hamstring injury during the last couple weeks of the team's offseason program, Stroughter made an immediate positive impression on the Buccaneers' coaching staff after April's draft. Offensive Coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski believes the former Oregon State standout has a chance to contribute quickly as a slot receiver after seeing the receiver's route running, hands and quickness on the practice field.
Stroughter certainly contributed mightily at OSU. In 2008, he was a first-team all-conference selection after catching 70 passes for 1,040 yards and seven touchdowns.
That was a triumphant return to the field for Stroughter, who had missed the 2007 season due to a variety of reasons, including a lacerated kidney, after breaking out as a junior in 2006. Primarily a return specialist during his first two seasons, Stroughter caught 74 passes for 1,293 yards in '06 after getting an opportunity to prove himself within the offense.
The 5-10, 189-pound Stroughter is considered a tough, physical player who can beat press coverage and work the middle of the field. Though Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton are considered the likely starters for Tampa Bay, the competition for the rest of the jobs on the receiving corps are wide open and the Bucs have high hopes for their 2009 draftee.
"We're very happy with what he's doing," said Jagodzinski. "He hurt his hamstring so he missed some time with us, but we thought that he was coming along and doing some things, what we drafted him for, playing some stuff in the slot."
Jackson, who played his college ball at nearby South Florida, signed with the Buccaneers on May 4. He also was briefly on Tampa Bay's roster during the 2008 offseason.