Former Cincinnati G Matt O'Dwyer played a big part in Corey Dillon's annual success
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers started fast in free agency and only seem to be speeding up. On Tuesday, a day mostly noted for the signing of former Oakland running back Charlie Garner, the Bucs also announced two other acquisitions: former Cincinnati guard Matt O'Dwyer and former Denver linebacker Keith Burns.
While Burns provides a big boost to the Bucs' special teams units, O'Dwyer becomes another valuable piece in a potentially rebuilt offensive line.
A high second-round draft pick in 1995, O'Dwyer (6-5, 313) has been a starter throughout his nine-year NFL career with the Bengals and New York Jets. Though he missed most of 2003 with a foot injury, he came into the season as the Bengals' first-string right guard after starting all 16 games at left guard in 2002.
In all, O'Dwyer has played in 115 NFL games with 108 starts. From 1996 through 2002, he started all 102 games in which he played, missing a total of eight contests in the 2000 and 2001 seasons. He has played extensively at both guard spots. In 2002, as running back Corey Dillon gained 1,311 yards, O'Dwyer was the only Cincinnati lineman to be on the field for every offensive snap. In 2003, O'Dwyer played in just four games before landing on injured reserve.
O'Dwyer has been a big part of Dillon's annual success in Cincinnati, in fact. In his first four seasons in Cincinnati (1999-2002), O'Dwyer helped Dillon top 1,100 yards each year and was consistently graded as one of the Bengals' top offensive linemen. He is also considered one of the league's strongest players and a very intense competitor.
The Northwestern product was originally taken with the 33rd overall pick in 1995, after the Jets gave up picks number 40 and 71 to move up in Round Two. He was the second guard selected in the '95 draft behind Buffalo's Ruben Brown.
O'Dwyer earned a starting spot in November of his rookie season in New York but made only two starts before landing on injured reserve with a knee ailment. He recovered completely for the 1996 season, however, and went on to start every game for the next three years, helping the Jets climb from a 1-15 mark in 1996 to 9-7 in 1997 and 12-4 in 1998. In two AFC playoff games, O'Dwyer started at right guard as the Jets' offense piled up a total of 799 net yards.
O'Dwyer signed with Cincinnati as an unrestricted free agent in 1999 and started all but five snaps that season, helping Dillon post a Pro Bowl season.
At Northwestern, O'Dwyer was an all-Big Ten selection as a junior and senior, playing both tackle and guard. He was a part of the Wildcats' stunning breakout season in 1994, in which the previously downtrodden team won the Big Ten, played in the Rose Bowl and rose as high as third in the national rankings. He hails from Lincolnshire, Illinois.
Though the Bucs could return all seven of the players who started at least one game for them on the offensive line last year (guard Cosey Coleman and tackle Cornell Green are currently unrestricted free agents), they have added, in less than one week of free agency, three linemen who have been starters for most of their careers. The players signed by the Bucs also share a versatility that could allow the team to set up its line in a variety of ways.
In addition to O'Dwyer and his ability to start at both guard spots, the Bucs have signed former 49er Derrick Deese, who has played all five line positions and started at three, and Matt Stinchcomb, who has started at left tackle, left guard and center.
In all, the Buccaneers have signed or re-signed eight players during the first six days of the 2004 free agency period. In addition to O'Dwyer, Deese, Stinchcomb, Garner and Burns, the Bucs snapped up tight end Dave Moore and fullback Greg Comella on the first day of the open market, then later re-signed tight end Rickey Dudley, one of their own unrestricted free agents.