The Tampa Bay Buccaneers introduced their newest offensive weapon -- tight end Anthony Becht, who officially signed a multi-year contract with the team on Tuesday.
Although the Bucs didn't have a lot of salary cap space to work with, head coach Jon Gruden, general manager Bruce Allen and practically the entire coaching staff pull a full court press on Becht during his two-day visit last week.
"There really isn't anyone here as far as experience, leadership and veteran ability," Becht said of Tampa Bay's tight end situation before his arrival. "That was definitely something I was looking for. It didn't take much, but Coach Gruden definitely pushed hard. He really showed me the ropes and he told me that this situation would be at least a launching pad for me. I'm looking forward to being here a long time."
Becht, 27, is reunited with new Bucs quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett and offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Muir, both of whom worked with the tight end while coaching in New York.
Although the former first-round pick out of West Virginia has hauled in 133 career passes for 1,164 yards (8.8 avg.) and 17 touchdowns during his five-year career, Becht caught just 13 passes for 100 yards last season. According to Becht, the Jets offense was committed to running the ball, and run they did, evidenced by the fact that tailback Curtis Martin captured the NFL rushing title (1,697 yards).
"Last year, it kind of tapered away and we pushed ourselves to being a run-oriented offense," Becht said. "I was a big part of that. Curtis (Martin) got a lot of yards running the ball outside around where I was. My role changed. Whatever it was for me to help the good of the team, that's what it was. I sacrificed a little bit of the so-called stats, but if you look at the stats for the tight ends - out of the top 10 guys there was probably only two guys who were on winning teams."
Some feel Becht hasn't lived up to the potential he had when he entered the NFL Draft in 2000 as a first-round draft choice, but the former West Virginia standout said he showed the ability to be an elite tight end in 2003 when he caught a career-high 40 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns.
"When I was in New York I was drafted by the Parcells regime," said Becht. "The following year, a new organization came in with different avenues and different routes. I was still the starter there for four years. I had a lot of different roles. In 2003, I thought I had a decent year in terms of receptions and touchdowns in the red zone."
One of Tampa Bay's main selling points was Gruden's ability to get the tight end involved in the offense. Becht has already established himself as a solid run blocker, but Gruden's desire to get more involved in the passing game made Tampa Bay a team he wanted to play for.
"The thing that Coach Gruden was trying to tell me was that we want to get you to where you are supposed to be in terms of your potential," said Becht. "I think I'll be more receiving help for this team to move the chains. I think I will be that guy to stretch the field a little bit, but getting the running game is going to be an important deal. They definitely want to get the ball outside this year and you have to have guys who are able to block defensive ends. You just don't have tight ends that can do that. I've gone against the best in practice in Shaun Ellis, and gone against probably the toughest division in the NFL.
"The chances and the opportunities will be there. Just watching a little tape from last year, I think they had 58-60 catches as a unit. That's probably 70, 75 or 80 balls thrown in their vicinity. I'm going to take advantage of this opportunity."
Some may question Becht's decision to leave the Jets, who were a playoff team last year, for the Bucs, who have produced two straight losing seasons. However, Becht said he likes the directions the rebuilding Bucs are headed in.
"I think Bruce Allen has done an excellent job trying to get everything into shape for coming years down the road," said Becht. "Coach Gruden is an excellent coach. I never met him prior to this visit, but I know about him. I know his hard work and dedication he puts into the team and his players. I just want to be a part of that. I'm definitely used to winning. I come from a program that has won pretty much every year. I've been to playoffs. Obviously, (the Bucs) have the Super Bowl championship and are trying to get back to that level. I want to get to that level in my career also.
"I think they are bringing the right type of players in. They are trying to get youth and some veteran leadership also mixed together. They've restructured some guys who are committed to the program to help groom and bring in the players that they need to ultimately achieve their goal of getting to the Super Bowl. The direction of this team is good. I wouldn't come here if this team didn't have the opportunity to win."
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