FAB 4. Spytek, Biehl Offer Intel On Bucs’ Undrafted Free Agents

Tampa Bay added 13 undrafted free agents following the selection of their seven-player 2020 draft class last Saturday. We’ll get to the analysis of Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Johnson, Minnesota wide receiver Tyler Johnson, Nebraska defensive tackle Khalil Davis, Temple linebacker Chapelle Russell and Louisiana running back Raymond Calais next week and jump ahead to this year’s undrafted free agent class to help educate you on some of these obscure Buccaneers.

QB Reid Sinnett – San Diego
WR Josh Pearson – Jacksonville State
WR Travis Jonsen – Montana State
WR John Hurst – West Georgia
C Zach Shackleford – Texas
OL John Molchon – Boise State
OL Nick Leverett – Rice
DL Nasir Player – ETSU
DL Benning Potoa’e – Washington
LB Michael Divinity – LSU
OLB Cam Gill – Wagner College
CB Parnell Motley – Oklahoma
S Javon Hagan – Ohio

Tampa Bay has had some success finding some undrafted free agent gems in recent years, including former right tackle Demar Dotson, former wide receiver Adam Humphries, former running back Peyton Barber and current tight end Cameron Brate. Which players might stick to the team’s 55-man roster this year? I asked Bucs director of player personnel John Spytek and director of college scouting Mike Biehl for some intel on some early favorites.

Bucs WR Travis Jonsen

Bucs WR Travis Jonsen – Photo courtesy of Montana State

One of the more intriguing additions is Jonsen, a 6-foot-4, 211-pound wide receiver, who spent a good amount of time running the ball as a wildcat quarterback, in addition to be flanked out wide. Jonsen had 118 carries for 725 yards (6.1 avg.) and 13 touchdowns in two seasons for the Bobcats, while catching 83 passes for 899 yards (10.8 avg.) and two touchdowns. Last year, Jonsen had 528 yards rushing and scored eight TDs along with 580 yards and one touchdown on 55 catches.

“He’s an interesting guy as an Oregon transfer,” Biehl said. “He was a quarterback at Oregon. We liked his versatility and that he can do some things for us. He’s kind of raw as a receiver, not having played the position a lot, but we just think he’s somebody we can work with. He’s got a lot of athletic ability, and when you switch from quarterback to receiver you have a whole different outlook on the game. It’s kind of intriguing. I think our coaches will be exciting to work with a guy like this and maybe do some different things. He’s a little bit like Jonathan Franklin. That’s a good comp.”

Spytek also liked the Franklin comparison.

“You put the Montana State kid’s tape on and Jonsen is doing a little bit of everything,” Spytek said. “He has the skill set and he’s certainly athletic. That was a fun add to that room and the chance to make you dream up some stuff and add to the playbook because he can throw the ball. We kind of got Johnny Franklin that way, too – and it gets B.A.’s and Byron’s wheels turning.”

The most sought after free agent was Gill, the Wagner edge rusher. At 6-foot-2, 232 pounds, Gill ran a 4.6 time at his pro day despite dealing with a nagging hamstring injury. Gill recorded 188 tackles, 57.5 tackles for loss, 34 sacks, eight forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, five pass breakups, and score a defensive touchdown.

“The Gill kid had 22.5 sacks the last two years – albeit at a lower level of competition,” Spytek said. “That’s not his fault. All he did was average about a dozen sacks per year. We had a chance to look at some of his workouts and he had a pro day with a pretty solid 40-time.”

Bucs OLB Cam Gill

Bucs OLB Cam Gill – Photo courtesy of Wagner

Gill was one of the undrafted free agents the Bucs had a draftable grade on.

“With late-round picks and undrafted free agents you are looking for guys with traits and production,” Biehl said. “He’s got those. He was a highly productive college player with some height, weight, speed to him. When you are a 3-4 team, sometimes it’s hard to find outside ‘backers that can contribute on special teams, right? Because they are often 4-3 defensive ends, but we think Gill has a chance to contribute in that area, too.”

Another undrafted free agent that the Bucs had a lot of competition for was Molchon, a guard from Boise State.

“The Boise State kid, you put on the tape and everyone is watching Ezra Cleveland, and you see this other kid that has played all the spots,” Spytek said. “He’s played tackle, he’s played guard and he’s played center. We kind of made him a priority and stayed on him as free agency got going. It got a little competitive and we were willing to do a little bit to get him. We were excited to add him to that room, and he’s tough-minded, smart and versatile. We’re not going to ask him to play tackle, but he’s bounced all over the place because he’s smart enough to do it. You want as many guys as you can that can play guard and center. It makes game day easier for planning purposes. We were excited to get him.”

Getting Molchon was like getting an extra draft pick because he was a highly rated Day 3 guy by the Bucs.

“Molchon from Boise – we liked his versatility,” Biehl said. “He’s a guy that got a little banged up and had some injuries this year. I think we’re pretty fortunate to get him as an undrafted free agent. We thought he was definitely a draftable guy and we’re fortunate it worked out that way. He’s got a lot of intangible things you look for an offensive lineman, such as smarts and toughness and he’s kind of gritty. He’s a decent athlete, too. We like his versatility and think he can play multiple spots. We’re anxious to get him in and we think he’ll fit in well with our O-line room. He’s more of a guard-center, but he’s played some tackle too, which doesn’t hurt.”

Bucs WR Josh Pearson

Bucs WR Josh Pearson – Photo courtesy of Jacksonville State

Another highly touted undrafted free agent that has the Bucs excited is Pearson, a 6-foot-3 receiver with very good speed.

“The Jacksonville State guy was one of those non-Combine guys that was fortunate to have a pro day early. Our area scout Tony Hardy went there early and reported back and said this kid blew up the pro day, running high 4.4s at 6-3, 205 I think. He had a 41.5-inch vertical and a 10-9 or a 10-11 broad jump. When you put the tape on he’s a good athlete and a good route runner. He really stood out at that level of competition. He was physically dominant, and a tough-minded, hard-playing kid. I think we need to get him a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger on that frame, but I would expect our strength guys would be on that. That’s what you try to add in free agency – some good kids with some talent and potential and they are going to come and compete. They’re not going to back down because they’re undrafted and they’re not ‘supposed to make it.’”

As a junior, Pearson had 67 catches for 1,123 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. Last season, he recorded 59 receptions for 943 yards with 13 more TDs.

“He was a guy we had a draftable grade on from our scouts,” Biehl said. “This year, the receiving group as a whole was pretty deep, so you benefit with guys like this, who get pushed down because there were so many receivers in this draft. He was a height-weight-speed guy that we would have targeted in a late round. We’re just fortunate that he dropped this far and we were able to get him as an undrafted free agent. He does a lot of good things on the field. Now it’s just a matter of getting him here and seeing how he transitions to our league.”

Motley, a decent-sized defensive back from Oklahoma, was the only cornerback added after the draft. The fact that he had 33 passes defensed, six interceptions and six forced fumbles in his career against top competition in the Big 12 thrills the Bucs.

Bucs CB Parnell Motley

Bucs CB Parnell Motley – Photo courtesy of OU

“He had a solid all-star game and stood out down here (East-West Shrine Bowl),” Spytek said. “He has some good size, which we’ve been trying to add since the receivers get bigger and bigger in this league. Our top three corners are all over 6-feet, and he’s 6-foot – a little more on the thin side. He played big-time ball in the Big 12. We were happy to add a guy like him late in free agency. It kind of feels like another late-round draft pick, honestly.”

Biehl had praise for Motley, Schackleford and Sinnett, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound quarterback from San Diego. Only a one-year starter, Sinnett passed for 3,528 yards with 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while rushing for six touchdowns.

“Motley and the Shackleford kid from Texas – those two guys that we signed probably have a good chance,” Biehl said. “Sinnett is a bigger kid with a nice frame. He’s got a pretty strong arm. The James Morgan kid from FIU was kind of a comparison we used. He’s at I-AA non-scholarship San Diego, so it’s a little bit of a different level of competition, but his play style and stature are similar to Morgan. We saw some of the traits we like. We have a pretty good quarterback room right now, so there’s not a ton expected of him, but maybe he’s a guy that we can have come and develop.”

With no rookie mini-camp or OTA (organized team activity) on the horizon due to the stay-at-home orders from the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be some time before Biehl, Spytek and the rest of the Bucs’ brass see exactly what the team has from its 2020 undrafted free agent class.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
1 year ago

LOL. I love how you say fourth round picks have a 28 percent chance of resigning with thier original teams.
Except for Mike Evans, first round players here have a zero chance of resigning with the team thanks to Licht’s drafting acumen.

surferdudes
surferdudes(@surferdudes)
Reply to  drdneast
1 year ago

I’m in the camp that doesn’t see the need to bring in a veteran RB, corner, or safety. We have three backs from last year still on the team, and added two more. Roll with it. As mentioned Licht has drafted countless safeties, and corners, just used another second rounder on a safety, enough, don’t need anymore at this time. Fans have been talking about moving Wirfs to guard, maybe moving Cappa to tackle, or picking up someone like Peters to play RT, why? Wirfs has played tackle for three years at a high level since his freshman season. Why… Read more »

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3(@liquidmuse3)
Reply to  drdneast
1 year ago

Vea and White are clearly already motoring towards 2nd contracts. VHIII is clearly a failure but unless the best quarterback of all time comes available, Jameis was getting a second contract. So what you meant was “VHIII was a bad pick”, and that’s about it.

IDGABuc
IDGABuc(@idgabuc)
Reply to  liquidmuse3
1 year ago

WRONG! The Bucs had Winston 3rd behind Tom Brady and our former, AND current, division rival in Teddy Bridgewater. THEN they said they’d have tried to sign Winston. You can try to pump up Winston as having JUUUST missed out on a 2nd contract w/ the Bucs because the GOAT was available, but facts are facts. The fact is EVERY TEAM IN THE NFL just had shot at your boy Winston and there was no team biting for MONTHS! He wanted $30m+/yr! And he got $1.1m.. Apparently the Saints decided to be cool & not to knock off a FULL… Read more »

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan(@stlbucsfan)
1 year ago

Draft is over and it was a solid draft when you consider it as a whole. Simply put Lynch got over on Licht but I’m not shocked Bc he’s a much better GM. I hope we target Taco Charlton who was recently cut by the Dolphins I believe. He registered 5 sacks while only playing a 3rd of the snaps and would a good young guy to add to the rotation at DE. We need more depth at that position Bc we saw what the defense looked like with Shaq and no JPP. People are nervous about the backup OL… Read more »

TCB2W!
TCB2W!(@kaimaru)
Reply to  stlbucsfan
1 year ago

No to Taco. He was released by Miami for his disruption in the locker room. He was a first round pick that Dallas let go of after 2 seasons and Miami deactivated him for 4 games because of behavior. Why would we want that in our locker room?

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan(@stlbucsfan)
Reply to  TCB2W!
1 year ago

I could careless about what he did in Miami. He would easily be our 3rd best DE, has the talent, would be cheap and is definitely worth the gamble. You can always cut him if it doesn’t work out but there’s not many guys walking the street that averaged 10 sacks on 50% of their snaps. Any injury to JPP or Shaq and this defense will quickly return to the awful mess we saw the first half of last season. Plus I’ve seen enough of JPP to know Taco would quickly be confronted if he became a problem. Not sure… Read more »

IDGABuc
IDGABuc(@idgabuc)
Reply to  stlbucsfan
1 year ago

Idk if you caught the part where he said he was a 1ST RD PICK at a premium position and was given the boot after barely making it past TWO seasons with the team that drafted him..? Then he signed w/ Miami after being straight up released by the Cowboys, who are still needing depth at the position, to Miami (notice he wasn’t even traded for a 7th after 2 years??) who released him after 1yr DESPITE him being a productive player to the tune of leading the team in sacks! With 5 but still. That led because he happened… Read more »

stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan(@stlbucsfan)
Reply to  IDGABuc
1 year ago

Reading is key, I said he had 5 sacks on a third of snaps. My 10 sacks were projecting Which is why I think he’s worth the gamble. Not relied upon to produce or start so literally everything would be earned which is great for a player like him. Comparing Desean to a guy who would be signing a 1 year prove it deal are completely different. Desean had a 3 year deal and knew his spot was safe so he could act however he wanted. Plus we had Jameis and a guy that wore Batman pjs as captains, times… Read more »

danielob
danielob(@danielob)
1 year ago

I always get hyped when I read about the potential these new young Bucs could bring to the team. Winfield sounds like a exciting player, it might take a few years for him to live up to his potential, hope we don’t throw him in too soon, DB is one of the hardest positions to transition into the NFL and alot of these players lose confidence when they are thrown into the fire. Of all the UFA’s we signed I think that Parnell Motley has the best chance to make the roster, start on special teams and transition into a… Read more »

Bucsfan1983
Bucsfan1983(@bucsfan1983)
1 year ago

I wish Licht stayed at 14 and kept that 4th round pick, I really wanted James Morgan with it.

Regarding Winston,

SR get over yourself. BA quit on Winston the moment he named Lefty play caller. I have no problem with what Winston said, even if aimed at BA more so than Koetter and previous coaches.

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3(@liquidmuse3)
Reply to  Bucsfan1983
1 year ago

He accepted the job almost BECAUSE of Jameis. He supported him all year almost to a foolish degree. He turned on him only when the season was over and even then only a little. I sometimes wonder if some fans are just cynics at heart.

Dave
Dave(@bucball02)
Reply to  liquidmuse3
1 year ago

100% right. Jameis was the reason BA took the job. He didn’t quit on him. If we won the final 2 games and Jameis threw say 5 TD’s vs 1 pick, instead of losing both games and throwing 3 TD’s vs 6 picks, I guarantee we keep him. And Brady isn’t here. He dug his own grave here in TB

Horse
Horse(@horse)
1 year ago

Most know I wasn’t a fan of drafting Winfield because of his size. His passed injuries clearly shows we can expect the same. Okay, I feel better now. I accept it and won’t remind anyone about it in the future. Enough said! I would like to throw this thought out there? I believe we are better than the Saints as to talent; where we are weaker is in Coaching. We can’t play vanilla against the Saints; we have to be creative and NEVER take our foot off the peddle, or they will come back and beat us most times. Good… Read more »

Dave
Dave(@bucball02)
Reply to  Horse
1 year ago

Horse: What does size have to do with anything? He’s the same size as the Honey Badger and Earl Thomas. Size has never impacted either one of them. IMO if he stays healthy(which obviously is a risk with him)he’s the surest bet of all our draft picks. He’s got stud safety written all over him. And I think he’ll immediately step in and be productive his rookie year. I don’t know how anyone can watch his tape and not come away with the same conclusion. He can do it all, and do it all well. His football IQ is off… Read more »

Spitfire
Spitfire(@spitfire)
1 year ago

What I like about Wirfs is I doubt we will ever hear “He tends to take plays off” or “It seems like he’s on for most the game but then falls off and disappears some plays” at least not due to a lack of effort or drive. He’s got the height and arm length and weight and athleticism. He will no doubt lock down a spot on the Oline for years to come. Hopefully that is RT if not eventually LT.

Spitfire
Spitfire(@spitfire)
1 year ago

It’s easy for anyone that wants to sit there on their couch and moan about giving up the 4th. None of us were the GM sitting there in front of the computer guessing at what would happen with a prize sitting right there one pick away. Nobody in that position would wanna risk letting that prize go. Kinlaw May have been interesting and may overcome his injury concerns, but if he doesn’t and we had to take one of the second level OTs and Brady ended up in the hospital, everyone would be crying that Licht should have done whatever… Read more »

owlykat
owlykat(@owlykat)
Reply to  Spitfire
1 year ago

Well spoken, spitfire!

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3(@liquidmuse3)
1 year ago

Man Scott, you really have a thing against Whitehead. 😉 Last year you didn’t even have him making the team even though he had a very good rookie year and looked bigger in camp, and now you think Edwards is gonna take his spot. They talk about interchangeable safeties and Whitehead and Winfield are almost copies of each other, other than Winfield’s more of a ballhawk.

chefboho
chefboho(@chefboho)
Reply to  liquidmuse3
1 year ago

Agreed. Whitehead was one of my favorite players on defense. He is a heck of a hard hitter. I thought he was pretty darn good back there last year. Even better than Edwards

Buc on the Move
Buc on the Move(@buc-on-the-move)
1 year ago

” If another team had traded up to get Wirfs then I would assume Licht would have drafted South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, given his affinity for drafting guys who play in the trenches with premium picks. ”

Seriously, LOL!

In 6 years you have Vea, Spence, Smith and Marpet, now Wirfs. I would hardly call that an affinity. I think Scott meant to say secondary instead of trenches.

DonkeyHunter
DonkeyHunter(@donkeyhunter)
1 year ago

“If another team had traded up to get Wirfs then I would assume Licht would have drafted South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, given his affinity for drafting guys who play in the trenches with premium picks” SR, are you serious? If you want to count 1st through 3rd rounders as premium picks, Licht has had 25 of them in his tenure. With those premium picks, he’s invested the following: 4 on Offensive Linemen 2 on Defensive Linemen That’s less than 25% of his total premium picks. Now, with those other said premium picks, he’s invested: 8 on defensive backs… Read more »

destinjohnny
destinjohnny(@destinjohnny)
1 year ago

So reading this, the Bucs only have one scout for the big 10?? I would think they would have a offensive lineman scout, linebacker scout, running back scout, dB scout etc etc. How is one person able to scout all those positions and all those schools?
Is there a cap teams can spend on scouting?

Benjamin
Benjamin(@jammin8519)
1 year ago

Kwon Alexander was drafted in 2015 not 2017.

johnny
johnny(@johnnybuc3)
1 year ago

“If another team had traded up to get Wirfs then I would assume Licht would have drafted South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, given his affinity for drafting guys who play in the trenches with premium picks.“ lol what are you even talking about. in a total of 7 drafts done by licht in tampa only 2 1st rd picks used on Oline/Dline. that’s an affinity for using premium picks on trench players to you? on top of that, of the 14 top 50 selections (what i consider a premium pick in the draft) licht has made in tampa, astonishingly… Read more »