The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have released DT Frank Okam to sign DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim off the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad. Okam was signed by the Bucs late last season and has played in nine games since then, starting four. While Okam had recently been bothered by injuries preventing him from making an impact, the defensive tackle had just recovered and looked to be a big part of the Bucs' defensive tackle rotation. Instead, they have now released the huge tackle who was getting rave reviews during preseason.
This move is a little bewildering considering the lack of depth the Bucs have at the position. Brian Price and Albert Haynesworth are the starters, while Roy Miller and Frank McCargo are operating in a backup role. McCargo has only been with the team for a week, however, and the play of those four tackles hasn't been spectacular.
The fact that the Bucs did this to sign a defensive end despite excellent depth at the position is even more baffling. The Bucs have gotten excellent play out of rookie Adrian Clayborn and left end Michael Bennett, while Da'Quan Bowers has looked good in spot duty, with Tim Crowder being a capable if unspectacular backup.
Daniel Te'o-Nesheim does come with some talent, though. He was a third-round pick for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010 out of Washington, but failed to make an impact in his rookie season, in part because of a lingering shoulder injury. He registered one sack and two tackles during six games of playing time. Apparently the young defensive end didn't impress the Philadelphia coaching staff much as he didn't make final roster cuts this season and has spent the year so far on their practice squad.
CBS Sports had the following to say about the young DE before the draft:
A classic overachiever, Te'o-Nesheim doe not fit the mold of a star NFL defensive end, but he started all 49 games in which he played with the Huskies and proved to be one of the Pac-10's most consistent defenders over the past three seasons.
The two-time second-team all-Pac-10 honoree leaves with eye-popping numbers: 194 tackles, 47 tackles for loss and as the school's all-time leader with 30 career sacks. He showed a penchant for coming up with big plays when the Dawgs needed them and was one of few standouts on an otherwise weak unit throughout much of his career.
Despite his production, scouts will struggle with just where to put Te'o-Nesheim on an NFL defense. He lacks the bulk to remain at defensive end on running downs and doesn't possess the burst to beat tackles on obvious passing downs. His success as a pass rusher is due more to technique and hustle -- elements that work best when he's able to use them against the same blocker on multiple snaps. But his surprising Combine workout, among the best of the defensive ends, had teams going back to the film to see if they could mold him into a starter, or even if he could make the transition to a 3-4 rush linebacker.
It sounds like he could make his presence felt on special teams, but I would not expect him to make a big impact as a pass rusher - or even get on the field for many snaps in that role.