The Buccaneers spent Monday morning and afternoon cleaning out their lockers less than 24 hours after their 24-14 loss to the New York Giants in the first round of the playoffs.
For some players, Monday might have been their last day at One Buccaneer Place. One of those players could be Bucs tight end Anthony Becht, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March due to the fact that the final three years on his contract will void.
Becht, 30, signed with the Buccaneers during the 2005 offseason. Although he's enjoyed his time in Tampa Bay, Becht would like to test the free agent market, but isn't opposed to re-signing with the Bucs.
"I think it's both," said Becht. "I love it here and I've definitely sweat some tears for this place. I like what they have going. Obviously there are a ton of decisions that need to be made and when it's my turn we'll see. I do believe the market is going to treat me well. I still have a lot of years left and I'm very healthy. I don't have a bruise on me right now. That's great. I'm working out a little earlier this year and where I wind up we'll have to see."
The 6-foot-5, 273-pound Becht originally entered the NFL as a first-round draft pick with the New York Jets in 2000.
He excelled as a run blocker, but Becht's receiving ability and skills never materialized in Tampa Bay, where he caught just 49 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns in three seasons with the Buccaneers.
Becht, who has hauled in 172 receptions for 1,411 yards and 20 touchdowns in 126 career games, had hoped to have more passes thrown his way in head coach Jon Gruden's offense, but that proved to be difficult due to the fact that he has been surrounded by several talented receivers. That was especially true this year since the tight end position alone featured Becht, Alex Smith and former first-round draft pick Jerramy Stevens, who is also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.
Becht, Stevens and Smith combined for 55 catches for 594 yards and nine touchdowns in 2007.
Although he only caught five passes for 20 yards this season, two of them went for touchdowns. Becht believes he is a well-rounded tight end and that he can run crisp routes and catch the ball if that is what a team expresses interest in having him do if they elect to sign him in free agency.
"We had a good room and I think if I had to rate our group of tight ends we'd have to be in the top three at least," said Becht. "That's a strong statement, but we have guys that can block, catch passes and run routes. I think Alex has come a long way in terms of his blocking and we all know he can run routes and catches passes. Everyone has a contract that is up except for Alex. It's going to be tough to keep us all together. I'm happy with my situation. Whatever my role was when they brought me here I just went out and did it to the best of my abilities. I don't have any regrets or complaints. Whatever Coach Gruden needed me to do I went out and did it. I can still catch balls. It might not show up on the statistics, but my value will be measured on other intangibles. It's been a great run so far. We won two NFC South division championships in three years."
Although he wasn't used as much as he would have liked as a receiver, Becht said Gruden has appreciated what Becht brought to his offense in terms of his blocking ability.
"He knows that I'm a very, very good blocker," Becht said of Gruden. "I shouldn't be beating some of the guys that I do. If I don't win it every time he gets pissed off because that's what he expects from me. The expectation level is always high. I know he appreciates me and what I can do. We have so many talented guys here and he tries to get everyone involved. You really have to be an unselfish player in this offense because a lot of people contribute. You also need to be a smart guy. If you don't have your [college] degree you cannot play tight end in this offense."
The Bucs invested a third-round pick in Smith in 2005, which means he likely will remain the primary receiver at the tight end position in Tampa Bay. Smith caught 32 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Tampa Bay is also interested in re-signing Stevens, who hauled in 18 passes for 189 yards and scored four touchdowns after signing with the team during the offseason. Not only did he prove he could be a reliable receiving threat for the Bucs, Stevens showed Becht and his teammates that he has put his troubled past, which includes a DUI arrest and conviction, behind him.
"We've got high character guys," said Becht. "I think there was a knock on Jerramy, but I respect Jerramy. I think he got caught up in a situation where anybody in this world, athlete or person, could have been in. Jerramy has grown up and matured, and I've never heard him complain about anything or his role. Alex is our featured guy and he's going to get better. He loves playing football and he's a smart kid."
If Becht does decide to test free agency, he will have some competition. Several others tight ends, including Stevens, Dallas Clark (Indianapolis), Kris Wilson (Kansas City), Eric Johnson (New Orleans), Ben Troupe (Tennessee) and L.J. Smith (Philadelphia) are scheduled to hit the market in March as well.
Perhaps that's one of the reasons why Becht recently hired superstar agent Drew Rosenhaus to represent him.
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