Meet the Bucs rookies: Missouri Western OT Leonard Wester
The Bucs have ample depth on the offensive line, including well-paid veteran backups like tackle Gosder Cherilus and guard/center Evan Smith. They'll be challenged by a group of rookies, including not only fifth-round pick Caleb Benenoch, but undrafted rookies as well.
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect in the group is tackle Leonard Wester of Missouri Western, a small-school prospect who jumped into the draft process very late this spring. He went largely under the radar, even though the Griffons -- for you non-mythology types, that's a creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle -- had another UDFA-caliber prospect in corner Michael Jordan.
Wester had a solid body of work -- a three-year starter at left tackle, stayed healthy with 24 straight starts, ran the 40 at pro day in 5.04 seconds, which is good for someone who is 6-foot-5 and 307 pounds. About a month ago, agent Steve Caric signed Wester and sent tape out, getting a quick response from NFL teams. He worked out for the Bucs, Eagles and Cardinals and even visited the Ravens.
"I had a pretty good pro day, had some good film, but things didn't pick up until I got in touch with Steve," Wester said. "I'm a player who's going to work as hard as I can, dedicate myself in the film room, the weight room and playbook as best as I can."
The Bucs thought enough of Wester to send player personnel scout Pat Perles to spend a day with him -- turns out Perles and Wester's father, Herb, played in the Big Ten at the same time, with Wester as a 6-8 tackle for Iowa and Perles playing linebacker at Michigan State, where his father George was head coach.
As undrafted free agents go, the Bucs made a significant investment to lure Wester away from other NFL offers -- reportedly a $20,000 signing bonus and $15,000 in guaranteed salary for 2016, which usually suggests at least a practice-squad role in his future.
"I'm super excited. I'm excited and humbled by the opportunity," Wester said. "It's an organization that's added a lot of young guys to their team the last couple of years, did a lot of great things last year. I think they're poised to do a lot more great things."