Bucs add depth to tight end position, sign Stevens

Updated: April 29, 2007, 11:02 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Almost as much as he loves collecting quarterbacks, Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden enjoys amassing tight ends, and he added another one Sunday night when the Bucs signed troubled veteran Jerramy Stevens.

An unrestricted free agent and former Seattle first-round draft choice, Stevens had played his entire five-year career with the Seahawks before entering the free agent market nearly two months ago. Terms and financial details of the contract were not immediately available.

Tight End
Seattle Seahawks

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
Rec Yds TD Avg Long YAC
22 231 4 10.5 26 66

The acquisition of Stevens came shortly after the draft concluded Sunday evening.

Stevens, 27, is an enormously talented player but has suffered from a spate of off-field incidents, including a March arrest for which he faces DUI and marijuana possession charges in Arizona.

The former University of Washington star previously pleaded guilty to a reckless driving charge in 2003 and served two days in jail for that offense. In 2000, Stevens was convicted on hit-and-run charges after driving into a nursing home. There was also a string of team-related offenses for which Stevens was disciplined by coach Mike Holmgren.

Last month, Seahawks team president Tim Ruskell acknowledged that Seattle would not attempt to re-sign Stevens and that it was better if the tight end moved on. On Sunday, he did just that, joining a Tampa Bay roster already crowded at the position.

"He's a former first-round pick and he's had some off-the-field issues that have hampered him a little bit," Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said. "He had a recent public mistake. . . . [But] we brought him in [earlier] in free agency and we had a great understanding of what he is. We've talked to him since the [March] incident and we had a very serious talk with him today. I think Jerramy Stevens is a good young man, and he's focused on doing things right. More importantly, he understands he has to do the right things."

It's likely the Bucs would have signed Stevens much earlier in free agency had in not been for the March incident.

That incident could subject Stevens to scrutiny under the NFL's personal conduct policy. And with his history of legal problems, and the recent crackdown by commissioner Roger Goodell, it is possible he could face league sanctions.

A first-round selection in the 2002 draft, Stevens has 138 catches for 1,458 yards and 15 touchdowns in 71 games, including 26 starts. A huge target (6-feet-7, 265 pounds) with good deep speed, Stevens has nonetheless suffered through inconsistencies catching the football. Nowhere was that more evident than in Seattle's loss to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL, when he dropped four passes, including three when running open in the Steelers' secondary.

Tampa Bay has four other veteran tight ends -- Anthony Becht, Alex Smith, Keith Heinrich and T.J. Williams -- on the roster.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.