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Tampa Bay Buccaneers fine-tune roster by adding rookie free agents, tryout prospects

Former Tennessee cornerback DeAngelo Willingham was one of the Bucs’ free agent signings.

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Former Tennessee cornerback DeAngelo Willingham was one of the Bucs’ free agent signings.

TAMPA — Rounding out the roster doesn't end with the draft.

Late Sunday and into Monday, the Bucs were still fine-tuning, adding rookie free agents and extending invitations to try out during this weekend's rookie minicamp.

Among the top prospects in the undrafted free agent group was Tennessee CB DeAngelo Willingham, an intriguing 5-foot-11, 217-pound player projected by some to be capable of playing safety. He has offers from 12 teams, said his agent, Ron Slavin.

"I was shocked he wasn't drafted," Slavin said.

Willingham finished 2008 with 42 tackles (24 solo), three interceptions and four pass breakups.

Other players offered rookie free agent contracts are Richmond RB Josh Vaughan and Pittsburgh DL Rashaad Duncan.

Though his numbers came against lackluster competition, Vaughan was quite productive. He rushed for 1,884 yards and scored 20 touchdowns last season. If he sticks in the NFL, he'll be the second Richmond back to do so in two years, joining the Cardinals' Tim Hightower, a rookie standout last season for the NFC champions. Duncan had 55 tackles and 51/2 tackles for loss in 2008.

Those signed to tryout contracts include two USF prospects, TE Cedric Hill and DE Jarriett Buie, and FSU DE Neefy Moffett.

Another tryout prospect is former Tampa Bay Tech standout LB Maurice Crum of Notre Dame, whose agent said the Bucs left the impression Crum has a legitimate shot at being offered a contract. Crum was among the prospects the Bucs evaluated in a workout featuring players from the region a few weeks ago.

Last word: First-round pick Josh Freeman on Monday reluctantly addressed his weekend reference to the Bucs' acquisition of QB Byron Leftwich as a smokescreen during an online chat.

"They actually used the term smokescreen," Freeman said. "They had told me when you interview they kind of wanted me to repeat the question in (answering) it. I've talked to Byron since. It was not that getting Byron was just a smokescreen but that having Byron was going to help. … It ended up helping them get me. That's not the reason they got him. It was like, 'They got Byron. Nobody's going to think they're going to grab a quarterback.' Maybe there's not the pressure of somebody jumping over them."

Financial considerations: How much will Freeman cost the Bucs? It's too early to say, but Lions OT Gosder Cherilus, the 17th overall pick in 2008, received a five-year deal worth $15 million, $9 million guaranteed. Because Freeman is a quarterback, the Bucs could likely pay more.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fine-tune roster by adding rookie free agents, tryout prospects 04/27/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 28, 2009 7:39am]
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