In a move that should surprise no one given coach Jon Gruden's penchant for veteran players, ESPN.com has learned that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday re-signed free agent tight end Rickey Dudley, a major contributor on the 2002 Super Bowl championship team.
Dudley, 31, was released by the Bucs in training camp, after the club reached an injury settlement on a severely sprained ankle. Rules on injury settlements mandate that a player cannot re-sign with the original team until after the 10th week of the season. Dudley had some interest from other franchises but was clear in his intent to eventually rejoin the Bucs, if possible.
The team had maintained a locker stall for Dudley, complete with nameplate, even during the 10 weeks he wasn't with the club.
The seven-year veteran, who also played for Gruden in Oakland, signed a contract for the remainder of the season. It is believed to be at the minimum base salary for a player of Dudley's tenure, prorated over the balance of the campaign, which would make it worth nearly $270,000.
"We like tight ends, America," Gruden said at his Monday press briefing, before the club brought Dudley back into the fold. "We like the tight end. We like the use of tight ends. We have to overcome the absence of (Ken) Dilger, and we have had to do that with Rickey, and certainly his return is a possibility."
Starting tight end Ken Dilger injured his left elbow in Sunday's loss at Carolina and he likely will be listed as "questionable" for next weekend's home game with Green Bay.
A former first-round draft choice of the Raiders (1996), Dudley appeared in 12 regular season games for the Bucs in 2002 and all three playoff contests. He had 15 catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns. For his career, the former Ohio State star has played in 97 games and has 211 receptions for 2,934 yards and 32 touchdowns.
A onetime college basketball player, blessed with the athletic skills of a power forward, Dudley still has the speed to split the safeties deep up the field and is also an effective receiver in "red zone" situations.
While the move to re-sign Dudley is typical of Gruden, the Bucs likely will not add another veteran to the fold. Veteran tailback Jamal Anderson worked out for team officials last week, but Bucs sources said the consensus was that Anderson, who has not played since 2001 when he was released by the Atlanta Falcons, could not upgrade the team's backfield depth.