The NFL trade deadline, which came and went at 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, didn’t go by without the Tampa Bay Buccaneers making a roster move.
The Bucs traded starting under tackle Anthony “Booger” McFarland to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
McFarland, 28, originally entered the NFL with the Bucs in 1999 as a first-round draft pick out of LSU. The 6-foot-, 300-pound defensive tackle has played in 98 games and notched 20 sacks during his eight-year career with the Bucs.
“He’s a tremendous person and has always been a valuable member of our team and the community,” Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said Tuesday evening in a press conference held at One Buc Place. “We’re going to miss him, and we wish him well.”
While he went out of his way to refer to him as a good person, Allen didn’t mention McFarland as a player, which did not come as a surprise.
The Bucs weren’t happy with McFarland’s play this season. As the second-highest paid player on Tampa Bay’s roster with a $4.5 million base salary, McFarland had recorded just 13 tackles and no sacks through five games, and he was called out by name when head coach Jon Gruden publicly challenged Tampa Bay’s defense, which ranks 19th overall and 26th against the run, to play better after the team’s loss to the New Orleans Saints.
McFarland’s backup, Ellis Wyms (6-3, 290), a sixth-year player out of Mississippi State, has notched 12 tackles and two sacks this season, and the 2001 sixth-round pick has recorded 9.5 sacks during his six-year career.
Just hours after executing the trade with Indianapolis, Allen announced that the 27-year-old Wyms would be Tampa Bay’s starting under tackle for the team’s upcoming game vs. the Philadelphia Eagles, which caught Wyms by surprise.
“I hate that we lost one of our soldiers, but we’ve got to pick up and move on,” Wyms said when reached by telephone. “We’ve got to get ready and get ourselves a win against the Eagles. I’m happy about the opportunity, and I’m looking forward to working toward another win.”
McFarland’s long-time teammate, cornerback Ronde Barber, was still taking in the news of McFarland’s trade to the Colts when Pewter Report reached him by phone on Tuesday evening.
“I’m at the airport right now, so I haven’t heard much,” said Barber. “It’s tough. You don’t want to lose a guy like that as a person. You can document however you want about the way he plays, but Mac’s a great dude, a great athlete and a great player for us for the seven years he was here. We’ll deal with it.”
Although McFarland was Tampa Bay’s starting under tackle, Wyms saw a significant amount of time in the rotation while playing well enough to convince the Bucs to trade McFarland and move Wyms into the starting lineup.
“One, it was the interest of the Colts,” Allen said when asked why the timing was right to trade McFarland. “They did step up and give us something quite valuable. Ellis Wyms’ progression and production has really come on strongly. He had a really strong game on Sunday. This gives Ellis a great opportunity to step up and become a great player in the NFL.”
In addition to trading McFarland to Indianapolis, the Bucs signed free agent cornerback/punt returner Phillip Buchanon to a one-year contract on Tuesday. Buchanon, a 2002 first-round pick with the Oakland Raiders, gives the Bucs depth at the cornerback position, where Brian Kelly (foot) and Juran Bolden (unknown) have been attempting to play through their respective injuries.
Buchanon was released by the Houston Texans Tuesday. The Texans gave the Raiders a second- and third-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft in exchange for his services in 2005.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Buchanon wasn’t productive in Houston and had trouble staying healthy. However, he has impressive credentials. Buchanon has notched 11 interceptions and scored four touchdowns off of those turnovers during his career.
While Kelly’s turf toe injury continues to linger, the Bucs also are intrigued by Buchanon’s punt return ability, especially since WR/PR Mark Jones missed last Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. Buchanon has averaged 10.5 yards per attempt and returned three punts for touchdowns since entering the league in ’02.
“He’s regarded as a playmaker, and his statistics really stand out,” Allen said of Buchanon, whom he had a hand in drafting as a senior assistant with the Raiders in ‘02. “To score seven touchdowns as a non-offensive player is really impressive. How the coaches fit him in – we’ll see. But we wanted to make sure we added some depth there.”
In addition to trading McFarland and signing Buchanon, the Bucs also released defensive back Derrick Strait from their active roster and CB Dion Byrum from their practice squad.
And the Bucs apparently aren’t done making roster moves. With McFarland gone, the Bucs are extremely thin at the defensive tackle position, where Wyms, Chris Hovan and Julian Jenkins are on the active roster. Dewayne White also is a player that works his way into the rotation on passing downs., and second-year DT Anthony Bryant is on the team’s practice squad.
Tampa Bay likely will add at least one defensive tackle to its active roster by Wednesday.
“Today we looked at a lot of options,” said Allen. “Our goal with the trade deadline was to try and improve the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in any way we could. We were looking at some players, and we had a lot of discussions with teams trying to acquire players from them.
“We feel like we’re strong, and we have some more roster moves we’re going to make here in the next few days.”