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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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.
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: email@example.com
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