TAMPA — Cade Otton could become one of the steals of the Bucs’ 2022 draft class, a productive player who might have been drafted higher if not for an ankle injury that required surgery in November.
The fourth-round pick from Washington was unable to participate in the Bucs’ organized team activities, and the rookie and mandatory minicamps while recovering. But Otton has been cleared by the Bucs to practice when training camp begins Wednesday.
In four seasons at Washington, Otton caught 91 passes for 1,026 yards and nine touchdowns. The 6-foot-5, 247-pounder figures to play a prominent role following the retirement of Rob Gronkowski.
Otton is a classic Y or in-line tight end who can run-block and catch. He and fellow rookie Ko Kieft, a sixth-round pick from Minnesota, should benefit from the Bucs’ signing of veteran Kyle Rudolph.
Rudolph, 32, agreed to a one-year deal as a free agent Wednesday. A two-time Pro Bowl tight end during a decade with the Vikings, he caught only 26 passes and one touchdown for the Giants last season, his 11th in the league. But he is also a classic Y who will provide a big target with good hands for quarterback Tom Brady. Eventually, it’s expected the job will become Otton’s.
The grandson of Washington’s all-time winningest high school football coach and whose dad coaches Tumwater High School in Washington, Otton should have no trouble making up for the time he lost in the offseason.
At Washington, Otton was a teammate of outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka.
The most tenured member of the tight end room is Cameron Brate, who is more known for his receiving than run-blocking. Brate, 31 and entering his ninth NFL season, is also joined at the position by Codey McElroy and JJ Howland, an undrafted free agent from Yale.
More injury updates
Several players could begin camp on the physically unable to perform list, including receiver Chris Godwin, who has been progressing from a torn ACL suffered in a Dec. 19 game against the Saints last season when he was struck on the right knee on a low hit by safety P.J. Williams. His status is expected to be updated next week.
A report by ESPN two weeks ago said the Bucs were hopeful that Godwin could play in the season opener Sept. 11 at Dallas. It would be surprising to see him in any preseason games.
Linebacker Lavonte David missed offseason workouts while recovering from a Lisfranc injury (middle-foot sprain). His status for the start of camp remains undetermined.
Despite playing in only 14 games last season, Godwin, 26, was the Bucs’ top receiver with 98 receptions for 1,103 yards and five touchdowns. The Bucs were confident enough in his recovery to place their franchise tag on him for a second straight season before signing him to a three-year, $60 million contract with $40 million guaranteed. Still, the Bucs fortified the position by signing free agent Russell Gage.
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David, 32, said he was playing at only 60 percent in the division-round loss to the Rams last season due to his foot injury. He’s entering his 11th season and his last under contract.
Contact Rick Stroud at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @NFLSTROUD.
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