With Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman sidelined with their respective injuries and Tampa Bay’s ground game stuck in neutral, the Buccaneers acquired some help on Monday night by trading what is believed to be a conditional draft pick to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for running back Michael Bennett.

Williams suffered a torn patellar tendon in Week 4 against Carolina. He was placed on injured reserve and will miss the entire season. Pittman sustained a severe ankle injury the following week in Indianapolis and is expected to miss at least five more weeks.

With those two key contributors sidelined, Tampa Bay’s running game has stalled. It currently ranks 19th in the NFL with 99 yards rushing per game. The Bucs rushed for 30 yards on 15 carries against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

The Bucs were expected to deal for a running back before Tuesday’s 4:00 p.m. trade deadline, but rumors suggested the team was more interested in Minnesota RB Mewelde Moore.

Bucs general manager Bruce Allen has pulled the trigger on a trade deadline deal each year since his arrival in Tampa Bay in 2004.

Allen traded disgruntled wide receiver Keenan McCardell to San Diego in ’04. The Bucs traded for 49ers quarterback Tim Rattay in 2005. Last October, Tampa Bay sent defensive tackle Anthony McFarland to Indianapolis for a second-round draft pick.

Before their trade for Bennett, the Bucs had four healthy backs – Earnest Graham, Lionel Gates and fullbacks B.J. Askew and Zack Crockett – on their active roster. However, Graham made his first career start vs. Tennessee and Gates has never started a game in the NFL.

Bennett, 29, originally entered the NFL in 2001 as a first-round draft pick with the Minnesota Vikings. He has played in 81 career games, rushing for 3,426 yards (4.5 avg.) and 12 touchdowns.

The 5-foot-9, 207-pound Bennett has also displayed reliable hands, catching 145 career passes for 1,164 yards and five touchdowns.

Bennett’s best year came in 2002 when he rushed for 1,296 yards (5.1 avg.) and five touchdowns and caught a career-high 37 passes for 351 yards and one touchdown en route to making the Pro Bowl.

The former Wisconsin standout joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 2006 via a trade with the New Orleans Saints, whom he had signed a two-year, $3 million contract with earlier that year. Bennett rushed for 252 yards and caught 19 passes for 124 yards in 17 games with the Chiefs.

Bennett had carried the ball just 20 times for 52 yards this season and his role in Kansas City’s offense likely would have become even more reduced with the expected return of RB Priest Holmes from the non-football injury list. 

The 2007 season is Bennett’s final year under contract. He was scheduled to make $1.2 million in base salary this season. However, Bennett is projected to make $750,000 with the Bucs due to the fact that there are just 10 games remaining in the 2007 regular season.

This trade is Tampa Bay’s second with Kansas City since May, which was when the Bucs acquired defensive tackle Ryan Sims from the Chiefs in exchange for a conditional draft pick.

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