Tampa Bay surprisingly didn’t address its tight end position in the 2007 NFL Draft.

But that decision made more sense shortly after the draft concluded when the Buccaneers announced that they had signed Seattle Seahawks free agent TE Jerramy Stevens to a contract.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Stevens, 27, originally entered the NFL in 2002 as a first-round draft pick out of Washington. He caught 130 career passes for 1,458 yards and 15 touchdowns during his five-year career with the Seahawks.

The 6-foot-7, 265-pound Stevens has started 26 of the 71 career games he’s played in. He caught a career-high 45 passes for 554 yards and five touchdowns in 2005 en route to helping the Seahawks make their first trip to the Super Bowl.

“He’s a big, speedy, powerful tight end,” said Bucs general manager Bruce Allen.

Stevens likely would have signed with the Bucs or another team shortly after free agency started in March if it weren’t for some off-the-field issues he had.

In March, Stevens was arrested for investigation of driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. He had previously pleaded guilty to reckless driving in 2003. Stevens was also convicted on a hit-and-run charge in 2000 after driving into a nursing home while he was attending Washington.

“He’s a former first-round pick and he’s had some off-the-field issues that have hampered him a little bit,” said Allen. “He had a recent public mistake, but we signed him today.

“We had brought him in during free agency and we have a good understanding of who he is. We’ve talked to him since the incident and we brought him in and had a very serious talk with him today. I think Jerramy Stevens is a good young man, and he’s focused on doing things right for us as neighbors. More importantly, he understands he has to do things right.”

While his biggest strength is his route-running and pass-catching ability, Stevens’ hands have at times been suspect. He fell under heavy criticism for a string of dropped passes, including three drops he had in the Super Bowl. 

Still, with just four tight ends — Alex Smith, Anthony Becht, T.J. Williams and Keith Heinrich — on their roster, the Buccaneers needed to add competition and depth to tight end position.

If he can stay away from off-the-field problems, Stevens could be a valuable member of Tampa Bay’s squad in 2007.

Want the inside scoop on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2007 offseason plans? Want to find out who the Bucs are targeting in free agency and the NFL Draft? Subscribe to PewterReport.com's Pewter Insider by clicking here.

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