Ogletree Among New 2013 Return Options

The player who returned the most kickoffs for the Buccaneers in 2013, Arrelious Benn, is now a Philadelphia Eagle.  The man behind him on that list, LeQuan Lewis, is a Chicago Bear.  Roscoe Parrish, who was responsible for 30 of the team’s 36 punt returns in 2012, as well as a handful of kickoff returns, is currently an unrestricted free agent.

In fact, of all 67 punt and kickoff returns the Buccaneers had during the 2012 regular season, only nine were accounted for by players who are on the team’s 2013 roster at the moment.

Obviously, the team will be auditioning new return men this spring and summer.  That’s a pair of jobs (PR and KR) that have passed through quite a few hands since 2008, when Clifton Smith made the Pro Bowl as a rookie return man.  The Bucs have had a different leader in both punt returns and kick returns in each of the last four seasons, and only Micheal Spurlock in 2010 was a real full-season option for both return gigs.

The Bucs are a long way from determining who their primary return man (or men) will be this fall.  It’s possible some new options will arrive via the draft, or further activity in free agency.  The team may want to take another look at 2012 seventh-round pick Michael Smith, who got an early cameo as a kick returner last season before spending most Sundays in the inactive list due to greater game-day needs at other positions.

One potential option just joined the team last Thursday.  Former Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, who will likely get a solid crack at the #3 receiver job, has a kick return background.  He got occasional return opportunities during his first three seasons in Dallas after running back kickoffs during his 2008 final year at Virginia.  Most of his work has come on kickoff returns, but he also ran back two punts for the Cowboys in 2011, one for 25 yards and one for 10 yards.

Ogletree’s return averages aren’t overwhelming – he’s averaged 19.5 yards on 20 kickoff returns as a pro – but the adjustment of the kickoff line to the 35 in 2011 has reduced return opportunities across the league and made it a little harder to judge a return man’s big-play possibilities.  The 6-0, 200-pound Ogletree is very solidly built, almost like a running back, and that plus good speed makes him an intriguing candidate for the return job.

Other apparent options on the current roster include Smith, wide receiver Tiquan Underwood and running back D.J. Ware.  All three got a handful of kickoff return chances last year, and Ware held the job for the Giants for a good part of 2010.  None have ever returned punts, however.  Obviously, Parrish or fellow free agent wide receiver Sammie Stroughter would be in the mix if either re-signed with the team.

There are also a couple young players the Buccaneers added to their roster during the season last fall but haven’t really tested out yet.  David Douglas, the 2012 rookie receiver the team swiped off the Giants’ practice squad in November, had a few return opportunities at the University of Arizona and is considered both sure-handed and quick.  Chris Owusu, similarly signed off San Diego’s practice squad in September, was a very good return man at Stanford and has speed to burn.  He averaged 27.3 yards per kickoff return in college, scoring three touchdowns.  Owusu is obviously an interesting candidate but his chances may hinge on finding other reasons to make the roster and be kept active on game days.

The punt return job is much more difficult to predict.  Fielding punts is more difficult than fielding kickoffs, and the potential for turnovers is higher, so coaches generally want a very sure-handed player who has experience with the job.  While the team cycled through a bunch of in-house options at kickoff return last year, they pointedly went outside the roster to sign Parrish when Stroughter got hurt and Jordan Shipley fumbled his chance.

Perhaps Ogletree will be able to prove he can handle that job, too.  At the very least, he would appear to be a new candidate to return kickoffs in 2013.

Derrick Brooks Tackles Buccaneer Twitter

Throughout his career, Buccaneers legend Derrick Brooks took down quarterbacks, blockers, running backs and anyone else holding a football. And while he may be done taking over NFL games, he has two more takeovers in his sights.

Along with current Buccaneer star running back Doug Martin, Brooks is one of 64 former and current players vying for the honor of landing the Madden NFL 25 cover. While Martin lines up on the “New School” side, Derrick Brooks looks to tackle his competition in the “Old School” column and takeover the title of newest Madden cover star.

On Monday, March 18, from 12-1 PM EST, he will be taking over another platform, the Buccaneers Twitter handle, @TBBuccaneers, in the Derrick Brooks Twitter Takeover.

This event is a special chance for you to chat with the Bucs all-time tackle leader. He will field your questions throughout the hour-long session while giving away some special autographed memorabilia to some of the best Tweets that come his way. In the timeframe, tweet at @TBBuccaneers and be sure to add the hashtag #itsabucslife for your comment to be seen.

To cast your vote for the Buccaneers New and Old School candidates, make sure to visit and share http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/feature/madden25cover.

And remember to tune in on Monday, March 18 from 12-1 PM for the Twitter Takeover.

Point/Counterpoint: Early Free Agency Moves We Like and Dislike

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson during the first 24 hours of free agency…Grade: A+.

Andrew, I’m sure we can both agree that the Bucs made a bold and impactful move in the early hours of free agency, which is typically when the biggest names in each free agent class make their moves.  Goldson has a sterling resume and the Bucs had a real need in the secondary; it’s a very good thing that the former 49er never made another visit after starting free agency with a flight to Tampa.

There really isn’t much room for debate between us on that signing, and we’d certainly be accused of homerism anyway.  So, now that free agency is close to 48 hours old, let’s take a wider view and assess what everyone around the league has done so far.  Many of the most coveted players have already landed in new locations, such as Cliff Avril in Seattle, Mike Wallace in Miami, Wes Welker in Denver, Paul Kruger in Cleveland and your man-crush Reggie Bush in Detroit.

These moves were made by intelligent and well-prepared general managers, with their respective ownership’s approval to fling the cash, and by players who knew their value and where they wanted to play.  As quickly as they all came together, they were surely not rushed deals in the sense of the teams’ and players’ motivations.

But, heck, why let that stop us from critiquing them?  That’s the Point/Counterpoint I’m proposing here: How about each of us identifies one early-free agency deal we really like, and one we don’t…not including the Bucs’ Dashon Goldson deal, of course.  I’m feeling as generous as a G.M. with $40 million of cap space, so I’ll let you go first.  Use any criteria you like. Continue reading

Goldson and Barron Complement Each Other Well

Before last April, the Buccaneers had never spent a first-round draft pick – let alone a top-10 selection – on a safety.  It’s also safe to say that the team has never made such a significant free agency investment in a safety, with very minor apologies to Sean Jones and Charles Mincy, as it did on Tuesday.

Then along came Alabama’s Mark Barron with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft, followed by veteran All-Pro Dashon Goldson on a five-year free agency deal that was inked on Wednesday.  Suddenly, the team has significant resources allotted to the back end of their defense, and a safety tandem that could quickly develop into one of the NFL’s best. Continue reading

Brooks, Martin in Running for Madden 25 Cover

Derrick Brooks is the greatest tackler in Buccaneers history.  Doug Martin just might be the most elusive back ever to pull on a Tampa Bay jersey.  It might be fun to see the two face off on the football field.

They could do battle in cyberspace, if the voting for the Madden NFL 25 cover breaks just right.  Both Brooks and Martin are among the 64 former and current players in the running for that honor, the former as part of the “Old School” bracket and the latter on the “New School” side. Continue reading

Polling the Krewe: Best Buccaneer Unrestricted Free Agent?

Free agency is knocking on the door. Just over 24 hours until the gates open and the free agency process is underway. And in celebration, we’re naming off some of the best unrestricted free agent (UFA) signings in the 20-year span since the current system was put in place by the original CBA.

Since 1993 (the year that first collective bargaining agreement ushered in the modern era of free agency in the NFL), the Buccaneers have seen some incredible production from UFAs. From a 1993 class including dominant LB Hardy Nickerson and CB Martin Mayhew to the most recent splashes from 2012′s WR Vincent Jackson and G Carl Nicks, the Buccaneers have been making waves for the last 20 years in the process. (Note: Only players who were technically unrestricted free agents at the time they were signed are included, so some players you may expect to see – such as Keenan McCardell or Roman Oben – are not included.)

Now we want to know what you think. Are you loving a star from the newest class? Does your favorite UFA take you back to 2002 and the Super Bowl Championship? Vote now for your favorite Buccaneer UFA signing and tell us about it in the comments!

Since the first CBA ushered in free agency in 1993, what is the best UFA signing the Bucs have ever had?

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Remember, if you have a question for an upcoming “Point/Counterpoint” debate or a poll that you would like to discuss? Let us know in the comments below!

20 in 20: Ranking the Best UFA Signings in Buc History

In 1993, the first collective bargaining agreement ushered in the modern era of free agency in the NFL.  The system has undergone some tweaks in the interim, but the main structure remains pretty much the same as what was put in place 20 years ago.  There are unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents, franchise tags, transition tags and a salary cap.  There were huge free agency hits when the market first opened (Reggie White) just as there are now (Drew Brees).  And, of course, there were (Scott Mitchell) and are (Nnamdi Asomugha) just as many big-ticket misses.

Like every team, the Bucs have had entries in both categories.  The less we speak about Alvin Harper the better, but from Hardy Nickerson to Vincent Jackson, some of the team’s best performers have come to Tampa through unrestricted free agency.

NFL teams have now had exactly 20 cracks at unrestricted free agency.  With the 2013 market about to open on Tuesday, let’s count down the best UFA signings in Buccaneer history.  This is a topic ripe for debate, so feel to share your thoughts (and/or derision) in the comments below. Continue reading

Mike Alstott’s Power Running Still Memorable

Mike Alstott is undoubtedly one of the most popular players in franchise history.  Legions of Buccaneer fans loved him – still love him – for his never-say-die approach to advancing the football, his incredible tackle-breaking highlight-reel runs.  It doesn’t hurt that Alstott arrived just at the beginning of the team’s renaissance and helped it grow inexorably into a Super Bowl champion.

But Alstott’s NFL legacy isn’t just a regional phenomenon.  Just like John Lynch is celebrated as one of the hardest-hitting defenders of his generation; like Warren is considered a pioneer of sorts at the defensive tackle position, as evidenced by his Hall of Fame selection; like Ronde Barber is thought of, in what might actually be an understatement of his skills, as the ultimate Cover Two cornerback; Mike Alstott is the very definition of a power back. Continue reading

Polling the Krewe: Which Buccaneer Do You Want for the Madden Cover?

Earlier this week, we told you more about the official voting for the featured cover player in the upcoming Madden 25. All 32 NFL teams will have a nominee, and the NFL star to land the cover will be voted on by the fans starting on Monday, March 11. More information on voting can be seen here.

In anticipation of the unveiling of the nominees, we are once again calling on you to answer which Tampa Bay Buccaneer you would like to see gracing the 2013 cover of this incredibly successful video game franchise.

Who do you want to see as the Bucs representative in the Madden 25 voting?

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Oh, and of course, don’t forget to vote for the Buccaneer star when voting begins on Monday!