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Cameron Brate’s breakout season bodes well

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NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers expected to go into the season with Austin Seferian-Jenkins as their main tight end, and to lean on him as a way to add some explosiveness to their intermediate passing game.

Instead, they cut him after he played two games and had gotten charged with a DUI, and he finished the season with the New York Jets. Meanwhile, the Bucs turned fully to Cameron Brate, who had emerged as a reliable if unremarkable target the year before.

Brate had a terrific season. 57 catches for 660 yards and eight touchdowns in just 15 games, two of which were spent sharing time with Seferian-Jenkins. Brate was a reliable second target for Jameis Winston, behind Mike Evans, and was a consistent threat over the middle. He wasn’t quite explosive and certainly not a deep threat, but he was a very important part of the passing game.

No surprise, then, that Pro Football Focus named him one of their top ten breakout players of 2016.

Cameron Brate emerged as a legitimate second target for Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers this year to complement the play of No. 1 WR Mike Evans. Brate caught 57 passes from 78 targets (73.1 percent) on the season for 660 yards and eight touchdowns, dropping only two passes all year. The former undrafted free agent elevated his way into the starting lineup, having flashed potential a year ago, and was one of the league’s better receiving tight ends in 2016, ending the season as PFF’s No. 7 ranked TE, with a grade of 82.8 overall.

Brate, who’s an exclusive-rights free agent who will be presumably be tendered at a close-to-miminum salary, looks like a surprisingly valuable part of the Bucs offense going forward. The former undrafted free agent out of Harvard has gotten better every year and while the sky isn’t the limit, he could have a pretty healthy and long career as a steady down-to-down receiver.