Second-year tight end Tanner Hudson was headed towards exclusive rights free agency in 2020, which meant he was pretty sure to remain with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if they wanted him on the roster beyond next Wednesday. Clearly, the Buccaneers did want that because they skipped the free agency process and signed Hudson to a one-year deal on Friday.
As a player with two or fewer accrued seasons of free agency credit, Hudson would have started free agency as an exclusive rights free agent (ERFA) if the Buccaneers had extended him a one-year tender offer prior to March 18. Since Hudson would have then been able to negotiate only with the Buccaneers, the next logical step would have been to sign that tender upon hitting free agency, converting it into his contract for 2020. Hudson and the team just accelerated the process by getting a contract in place five days before the start of the new league year.
Hudson originally joined the Buccaneers as an undrafted rookie in April of 2018. He landed on Tampa Bay's practice squad as a rookie and remained there until a promotion to the active roster in Week 15. Though he was inactive for each of the final three games of that season, Hudson built on that promotion with an outstanding preseason in 2019 and this time made the active roster to start the season.
Hudson (6-5, 239) hauled in 19 passes for 245 yards in four preseason contests last August, ranking second among all NFL players in both categories. He also led the league with three preseason touchdown catches. In the regular season, Hudson was inactive for the first six games but then saw his playing time increase after a season-ending injury to tight end Antony Auclair. Hudson would go on to play in nine games with one start and catch two passes for 26 yards.
With Hudson re-signed, the Buccaneers still have three players who could become ERFAs if they choose to extend tender offers: guard Mike Liedtke, wide receiver Bryant Mitchell and safety Orion Stewart. If they do not receive offers, they will become free agents who can sign with any team. Tampa Bay also has a long list of 19 potential unrestricted free agents, which includes 2019 NFL sack leader Shaq Barrett and quarterback Jameis Winston.