The Buccaneers re-signed free agent tight end Jerramy Stevens on Friday, and to be mindful of their swollen roster, which boasts 94 players, Tampa Bay released third-year quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
PewterReport.com is reporting that Stevens was signed to a one-year deal worth $700,000 and he did not receive a signing bonus. This was the same league-minimum-type terms Stevens agreed to last year.
Stevens came to Tampa Bay last year with a checkered past that included a DUI arrest in March in Arizona. While he was fined and suspended by the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons game last December at Raymond James Stadium for that transgression, Stevens was a model teammate in Tampa Bay and stayed out of trouble.
He was also a key contributor on offense, catching 18 passes for 189 yards and four touchdowns in 2007, including the game-winning score in the final seconds of the Bucs’ come-from-behind win at New Orleans that helped Tampa Bay capture the NFC South title. The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Stevens caught all four of his touchdowns in the final month of the season.
The seven-year pro has caught 148 passes for 1,647 yards and 19 touchdowns in his career.
Despite being a good teammate and a productive player, Stevens wasn’t re-signed during the first wave of free agency, perhaps because of a public relations backlash from a Seattle Times article that came out earlier this year that detailed his prior arrests and alleged wrongdoings at the University of Washington and with the Seattle Seahawks, who selected him in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft.
Instead of re-signing Stevens, the Bucs opted to sign John Gilmore and Ben Troupe early in free agency, in addition to lesser-known players like Tyrice Thompson and Donald Fells.
Gradkowski’s release should surprise no one as Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown and Brian Griese received almost all of the reps at last Thursday’s OTA (organized team activity) session at Raymond James Stadium, which was open to the media. Rookie quarterback Josh Johnson barely took any reps during the practice, but he received more playing time than Gradkowski did.
It has been a foregone conclusion that Gradkowski would be released this offseason, especially with the drafting of Johnson last month. Gradkowski had been passed on the depth chart last year by Luke McCown, who could become the quarterback of the future in Tampa Bay. McCown started three games last year, producing a QB rating of 91.7.
Gradkowski’s only playing time came in relief of injured starter Jeff Garcia in the Washington game in which he completed only nine of 19 passes for 106 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Despite the defense forcing seven turnovers in the game and Tampa Bay not having any giveaways, the Bucs barely beat the Redskins, 19-13 – largely due to Gradkowski’s poor play.
The Bucs offense didn’t even pick up a first down in the second half and that seemed to seal his fate in Tampa Bay as McCown replaced Gradkowski, who finished the season with 13 of 24 passes for 130 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and two sacks (52.4 QB rating), as the team’s backup quarterback.
Gradkowski, a sixth-round pick in 2006, started 11 games during his rookie season and produced a 3-8 record. He appeared in 13 games that year, completing 177 of 328 passes for 1,661 yards with nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. He struggled mightily to complete the deep ball during his two-year stint in Tampa Bay, with his longest completion being 53 yards.
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