The Bucs kept four undrafted rookies on the final 53-man roster, a testament to the scouting department for finding potential hidden gems and moving swiftly to get them into camp.

The decision to keep four also supports the team’s philosophy of putting the best 11 on the field, even if it means swallowing your pride and cutting a draft selection.

“Jason saw that we wanted to keep the guys who played the best at training camp,” Koetter said Monday. “As a coach or as a player, that’s really all you can ask for. We talked to our guys about competing, and the guys we felt did the best over the course of training camp, they stuck.”

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Among those four guys who greatly outperformed their draft stock were TE Alan Cross, T Leonard Wester, DE Channing Ward and DT DaVonte Lambert.

Cross, a former long-snapper out of Memphis, was arguably the most surprising keep. Tampa Bay had a deep group of tight ends heading into camp and sixth-round pick Danny Vitale, praised for his athleticism and versatility, was the clear front-runner for the final spot.

But stats and college reputation aside, Cross passed the eyeball test in the preseason and earned a job.

“He’s a tough guy and he’s a smart guy,” Koetter said of Cross. “He competes and he’s very versatile – all the things that we’re looking for in every player.”

As for Ward and Lambert, Koetter said play-making defensive linemen don’t fall off trees and the duo bolsters the Bucs depth along the front four. Neither Ward, a 6-foot-4, 279-pound end from Ole Miss, nor Lambert, a 6-foot-2, 282-pound tackle from Auburn, got in on the Bucs’ 16-sack parade in the preseason. But, like Cross on offense, Ward and Lambert looked like they belonged on the field during exhibition games and showed solid upside.

“Both guys can play inside or outside. When they got their chances in the preseason games, they made plays and they flew around,” Koetter said. “Young defensive linemen that you get a chance to develop, who can run and hit, those guys are hard to find. You just look around the league. Big, strong tough guys who can move, those guys aren’t just walking around everywhere.”

Big guys who are light on their feet may not be walking around everywhere, but that doesn’t mean they can’t come from anywhere. The Bucs found their fifth and final offensive tackle, Leonard Wester, from Missouri Western State University. The small school background, however, doesn’t bother Koetter.

“Good players come from all kinds of places,” Koetter said. “Whether a guy comes from Division II or wherever, there are good players everywhere in this country. Leonard, we think, has got the chance to develop into a real solid player at tackle. Again, developmental tackles aren’t easy to find. You’re just not seeing those guys walking around.”

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About the Author: Zach Shapiro

Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders. Contact him at:
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Randy H.
4 years ago

Zach, “neither nor” and “either or”, not “neither or”!

4 years ago

Gee whiz Randy H. Mark him down with a B for composition. Do you feel better now? I sure hope you don’t have kids “neither or” they might grow up to be repressed anal retentive types like yourself.

Randy H.
Reply to  drdneast
4 years ago

Sorry that I expected more from someone who is a professional writer. It was just something that I remembered from school. I guess in hind sight, it is the copy editor’s fault for not picking it up. And yes, I am anal, thanks for the compliment. Sorry, that I expect people to do what they get paid to do.

Reply to  drdneast
4 years ago

Absolutely drdneast. What are people thinking, expecting a journalist writing professionally to use proper English and stuff? Who needs that high falootin book learning to be a professional writer right? I weep for the future. People are way too quick to settle for mediocre nowadays.

4 years ago

The question I have is if you all think this is a good thing or a bad thing for our time. Rarely are undrafted free agent rookies game ready and four not only seem like a bit but does this reflect on the talent already available to the team. Especially short term I wonder if a couple of these guys could have been put on the practice squad and developed like I THINK was done with Kevin Pamphile a couple of years ago…forgive me if that is an incorrect recollection. And of course a couple of those players would have… Read more »

Reply to  revfish
4 years ago

Revfish: The Draft is only 7 rounds now. It used to be 12 rounds. Found David Logan in the 12th. Point is, there are guys that would have been drafted in years past that now are free to join teams that best suit them. It’s always amazed me how some first rounders never live up to expectations and some obscure guy from Pudunk U succeeds.

Reply to  revfish
4 years ago

I agree with scubog. Dave Logan. A blast from the past. Solid NT and weight room warrior. If I remember correctly he used to fly back after an away game and go immediately to the weight room. Scubog’s comments notwithstanding, my question is this: Are all these UFA signings the result of good scouting, or are we just very shallow with 2nd and 3rd level talent?