Seventh-round CB Lenny Williams joined first-round WR Michael Clayton as the first two 2004 draftees to sign on Friday
Southern University cornerback Lenny Williams was the last player drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past April, but he's one of the first to take care of that little piece of housework known as contract.
On Friday, the Buccaneers announced that they had reached contract agreement with Williams, the 252nd player drafted overall in 2004. As is team policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed. First-round pick Michael Clayton, a wide receiver out of Louisiana State, also signed on Friday.
To clear room on the roster for the second of their two Friday signings, the Bucs also released rookie T/G Mark Moroz. Moroz had signed with the Bucs as an undrafted free agent on May 20 after performing well at a rookie tryout camp held after April's draft.
The signings of Clayton and Williams could trigger a run of contracts among their fellow '04 classmates. It has become typical for NFL teams to do the majority of their rookie contract work in the two weeks before training camp, simply because, with the exception of first-round picks, the issues involved in these deals aren't as complicated as they are with most veteran contracts. There is a rookie 'cap' within the overall salary cap that includes projected salary ranges for each slot in the entire draft, leaving less cause for negotiation. Usually, only the first-round picks, with larger signing bonus issues, take a significant amount of wheeling and dealing…and the Bucs got that business taken care of early.
Like all NFL teams, the Bucs are motivated to get their eight draftees signed within the next week. While players may participate in offseason programs without a contract by signing a waiver, they may not report to training camp without a signed deal. The Buccaneers report to camp on Friday, July 30, and begin practicing the next day.
So you get two weeks of frenzied contract action. Or one week. Or just a few days.
Last year, the Bucs announced all of their draft-pick signings on one day, July 18, which happened to be the team's reporting day for camp. In 2002, fifth-round safety Jermaine Phillips started the signings on July 22 and the rest of his class was in the fold by the 26th. Camp opened two days later.
Williams (5-10, 190) was the lone player drafted out of Southern this spring. He was a three-time All-American and first-team SWAC choice, and his collegiate career was capped with the conference's defensive player of the year award in 2003.
Described as a big-play defender with good speed and leaping ability, he totaled 273 tackles and 15 interceptions at Southern. He did not allow a touchdown to an opposing receiver over his last two collegiate seasons. Williams hails from Lake Charles, Louisiana.