The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reported to training camp Thursday, but without their Cadillac.
Bucs first-round pick, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, is the only Bucs draft pick without a contract. The team inked tight end Alex Smith, safeties Donte Nicholson and Hamza Abullah, and wide receivers Larry Brackins and Paris Warren, to deals before the players were due to report to Celebration Hotel for the start of training camp.
“All of our draft picks are signed except for Carnell Williams,” said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. “I know his agent is talking with (general manager) Bruce (Allen) as we speak. We’ll update you as soon as we know something.”
Part of the reason Williams’ deal has not yet been completed is because of the fact that Ronnie Brown and Cedric Benson, who were drafted second and fourth overall, respectively, haven’t inked deals with their teams. Some believe Williams’ agent, Ben Dogra, is waiting to see what types of deals both of those running backs receive before agreeing to terms on a contract with Tampa Bay.
“I don’t know how this is going to work out,” said Gruden. “Obviously, there were two backs picked just ahead of him. Both Cedric Benson and Ronnie Brown are also missing training camp. It’s not a good year for running back coaches so far.”
Gruden said some of their other running backs, including Michael Pittman, Earnest Graham, Ian Smart, Derek Watson and Mike Alstott, would receive extra reps for as long as Williams’ holdout lasts.
“It’s disappointing,” said Gruden. “I know Carnell is probably over there at One Buc Place working out right now. It’s very important to him. I’m also very confident that we’ll get this thing worked out. In the meantime, we have work to do. We’ll take a look at our other backs.”
Last year, the Bucs dealt with another holdout situation when WR Keenan McCardell skipped offseason workouts and failed to report to training camp. McCardell was eventually traded to San Diego., but Gruden feels Williams’ holdout will have a much better ending.
“I think we’re a little more optimistic that this (holdout) can resolve itself quickly,” said Gruden.
In order to make room under the salary cap for their rookies to sign their contracts, the Bucs released tackle Todd Steussie on Thursday afternoon, a move that was anticipated.
“We waived Todd Steussie today,” said Gruden. “It was a salary-cap decision, and it’s unfortunate that that whole situation didn’t work itself out.”
Tampa Bay signed Steussie to a six-year contract last year. The Bucs attempted to make him their starting right tackle after he had spent his entire career playing at left tackle. However, that move didn’t pan out, and in Week 6, Steussie was benched in favor of Kenyatta Walker.
The Bucs, who were $1.4 million under the league-mandated cap before they signed any of their draft picks, freed up approximately $2.5 million by parting ways with Steussie. In a related move, the team released TE Robert Johnson on Thursday evening.
The team may receive any additional cap relief it needs to sign Williams if it places Charlie Garner on the physically unable to perform list or simply releases him. Gruden suggested Thursday that the PUP scenario for Garner, who suffered a torn patella in Week 3 last year, was a real possibility.