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OVERVIEW Don’t expect Tampa Bay to invest any of its 10 draft picks on a kicker or punter this weekend. The Bucs appear to be set at both positions.
Although they first attempted to sign Green Bay Packers free agent K Ryan Longwell to a deal this offseason, the Buccaneers eventually settled for re-signing Matt Bryant, which was not such a bad thing.
Bryant did, after all, drill 21-of-25 (84 percent) field goal tries in his debut with the Bucs last season. The Bucs have some concerns regarding Bryant and the hamstring injuries he appears to be prone to. That’s why they attempted to sign Longwell before the former Packer inked a long-term, lucrative deal with the Minnesota Vikings.
When healthy, Bryant has displayed both a strong and accurate leg. The team just hopes he can stay healthy throughout the entire 2006 season.
The Bucs feel Bryant will have some stiff competition in training camp thanks to the addition of former Florida State K Xaiver Beitia.
Beitia, who graduated from Jesuit High School in Tampa, spent training camp with the New York Jets last year. Even though he went undrafted, Beitia opened some eyes by outkicking Jets second-round pick, K Mike Nugent, throughout training camp.
Tampa Bay kept a close eye on Beitia during training camp and preseason, especially when Bryant and K Todd France were struggling. However, both Bryant and France got out of their slumps, which allowed the Bucs to pass on signing Beitia until the 2006 offseason.
Tampa Bay allocated Beitia to NFL Europe. He has made 6-of-8 (75 percent) field goal attempts with the Berlin Thunder.
The Bucs have P Brian Simnjanovski on their offseason roster to serve as an extra leg for Josh Bidwell, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season.
Bidwell averaged 45.6 yards per punt and pinned 24 of his 90 attempts inside the 20-yard line, not to mention the fact that he was an outstanding holder for Bryant’s field goal attempts.
While the Bucs want him to duplicate that performance in 2006, Bidwell could cash in on another Pro Bowl-caliber season. He’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in 2007.
Current Position Grade: A-
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