Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp Preview: Tight Ends

TAMPA FL - DECEMBER 05: Tight end John Gilmore #88 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers catches a touchdown pass against the Atlanta Falcons during the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 5 2010 in Tampa Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Continuing with this look at the Bucs roster this training camp, we come to a position that seems set: tight end. With Kellen Winslow Jr. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league. Winslow routinely beats linebackers and safeties one-on-one, is very good after the catch and is a great red-zone target. While at times K2 seemed to disappear from the gameplan last season, the only thing that will stand in the way of his starting job is his health. And even there, he has done well. He hasn't missed a game as a Buccaneer, and is coming off his first offseason in years without surgery. He should be better than he has been in previous years because of that. 

However, Kellen Winslow is a liability as a run-blocker, which is why the Bucs drafted versatile Tennessee Volunteer Luke Stocker in the fourth round. Stocker is not spectacular as a receiver and certainly not as good as Kellen Winslow, but he is still a good enough receiver to add something to the Bucs' offense. His qualities as a run-blocker, meanwhile, could see him take over as the starting tight end as he offers more flexibility than Kellen Winslow. At the very least he will get on the field as the second tight end in two tight-end sets, which the Buccaneers ran frequently last season. 

Behind Stocker, the Bucs have a number of low-end tight ends. Ryan Purvis and Nathan Overbay should fight for one roster spot as a blocking tight-end, as both players saw the field late last season in that role. Both players seem serviceable blockers, and could be used as pass-catchers in a pinch. The dark horse to push for a roster spot is Daniel Hardy, a seventh-round pick. Hardy was a very good pass-catcher at Idaho, breaking multiple records. If he can be healthy and work hard, he could push Purvis and Overbay for a roster spot as an H-Back/flex TE. I expect him to be signed to the practice squad instead, though. 

The Buccaneers could also bring in a second-tier free agent at tight end. John Gilmore is leaving in free agency and has been a good blocking tight end for Tampa Bay. If the Bucs feel they can't count on Purvis or Overbay in that role, they might re-sign him, though that seems unlikely. They could also go after a player like Randy McMichael out of San Diego, who has served well as a complement to Antonio Gates these past season. There's also Bo Scaife, who has been solid but unspectacular with the Titans. Finally, Dante Rosario is an intriguing option. The Carolina Panther is a good, versatile tight-end who can run-block and function well in the passing game.

However, overall I feel it's more likely the Bucs stick with their current crop of tight ends. If they sign any free agent, they likely re-sign John Gilmore, but even that seems like a long shot. 

Previous Installments: 
Offensive Tackles
Offensive Guards

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