The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began their search for undrafted free agents Sunday evening, and that search already has proven to be fruitful.
The Bucs didn't have to look further than Tampa to land their first undrafted free agent. Immediately after the 2006 NFL Draft ended, the Bucs agreed to terms with USF Bulls running back Andre Hall.
The 5-foot-8, 204-pound Hall has great vision and balance. While he's undersized, Hall is a powerful runner and capable return man.
Hall was quite productive for the Bulls, carrying the ball a total of 480 times for 2,731 yards (5.6 avg.) and scoring 24 touchdowns during his collegiate career at USF.
In addition to carrying the Bulls running game on his back, Hall hauled in 44 career catches for 470 yards and three touchdowns.
Hall produced 12 100-yard rushing games and three 200-yard rushing games with the Bulls.
As a senior, Hall carried the ball 270 times for 1,374 yards (5.0 avg.) and scored 13 touchdowns. He also hauled in 26 passes for 321 yards and scored two touchdowns. In his junior year, Hall had 210 carries for 1,357 yards (6.4 avg.) and 11 touchdowns while catching 18 passes for 149 yards.
Some mock drafts had Hall going as high as the third round in the 2006 NFL Draft, but he watched just over a dozen backs get drafted and went undrafted, which allowed the Bucs to sign the local talent.
"I'm excited about him," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Hall, who visited One Buc Place earlier this offseason. "He made a real case for himself when he was here. Obviously we took a back last year that was a pretty good player, Cadillac Williams, Pittman and Ernest Graham. We like the progress that Derek Watson has made. Obviously we weren't looking to draft a back in this draft but to get him is big. He's an interesting guy."
With running backs Cadillac Williams, Michael Pittman, Derek Watson and Earnest Graham already on their offseason roster, the Bucs believe Hall can help separate himself in training camp and preseason by making an impact as a return specialist.
Hall returned 16 kickoffs for 332 yards (20.7 avg.) at USF. Although he did not return punts for the Bulls, Hall does have that ability, and with the Bucs struggling to find a consistent and productive kickoff return man, the team will give Hall an opportunity to solidify that position.
"Kick returns is an area that he's going to come in to play," Gruden said of Hall. "We need a guy, somebody in the United States or worldwide that can come in here and return a kickoff. This guy's got a knack for doing it. We're hoping that he can come in here and find a niche with us whether it be as a creative back to spell Cadillac or a guy that can catch it and spell him as a runner and do some return and cover some kicks. Sounds like the kind of guy that will do what was asked."
In addition to landing Hall, PewterReport.com has learned that the Buccaneers will sign two more undrafted free agents - Oregon linebacker Anthony Trucks and West Virginia safety Jahmile Addae.
Trucks (6-1, 230) is undersized and considered a "tweener" at the pro level. However, Trucks is extremely strong and is considered a great blitzing linebacker.
As a senior, Trucks notched 99 tackles and 11 sacks while forcing five fumbles for the Ducks. He also possesses good instincts and tackling ability, and could be a steal for the Bucs.
Addae (5-11, 205), who is a native of Valrico, Florida and graduated from Riverview High School, had a very productive career at West Virginia. He lacks ideal range and speed, but makes up for it with his instincts, size and hard-hitting style of play.
According to Gruden, the players that join Tampa Bay as undrafted free agents will be given the opportunity to compete for roster spots. He points to a few veterans on the Bucs roster as examples of undrafted free agents that accomplished similar feats.
"They make it here," Gruden said of undrafted free agents. "You look at [linebackers] Ryan Nece, Shelton Quarles and [left tackle] Anthony Davis. These guys just don't make it, they start and they just might even go to the Pro Bowl. It's a football program here for players not draft choices. We got to convey that this weekend to our first and second rounder that now that the draft process is over let's make sure that we all understand it's just a pecking order that doesn't guarantee you guys or any of us anything. We're not going to discriminate against any of these guys no matter how we get the rights to them. We going to give them a shot to earn a job and if they are the best players we got we will start them."
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