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Brate's big year is over

Cameron Brate, who matched the team’s tight end record with eight touchdown catches this season, has been a reliable target.
Cameron Brate, who matched the team’s tight end record with eight touchdown catches this season, has been a reliable target.
Published Dec. 28, 2016

TAMPA — A breakout season from Bucs tight end Cameron Brate will end a game early, as he will miss Sunday's regular-season finale against Carolina after being placed on injured reserve with a back injury suffered in Saturday's loss to the Saints.

Brate matched a Bucs record for tight ends with eight touchdown catches this season, a total that leads all NFL tight ends. He finishes with 57 catches for 660 yards, easily career highs as he emerged as a top red-zone target for quarterback Jameis Winston. Only Packers receiver Jordy Nelson has more red-zone touchdowns than Brate this season.

Brate, 25, in his third season out of Harvard, is still only an exclusive-rights free agent this spring, so the Bucs can keep him just by offering a one-year contract at the league minimum. He would be a restricted free agent in 2018 and in position to land a bigger contract then.

Brate's reliability gave the Bucs the freedom to waive former second-round pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins in September after his arrest on a DUI charge. Seferian-Jenkins was claimed by the Jets and has 10 catches for 110 yards and no touchdowns all season.

There will likely be a dropoff in production at tight end with Brate sidelined Sunday. The next-highest tight end is Brandon Myers, who has seven catches for 59 yards. The Bucs could either dress only three tight ends in Myers, Luke Stocker and rookie Alan Cross or promote Tevin Westbrook from the practice squad for depth.

TRANSACTIONS: The Bucs made several other previously reported moves, signing rookie running back Russell Hansbrough off the Giants' practice squad to the active roster, a move that points to Doug Martin not playing in Sunday's finale. Hansbrough was with the Bucs in preseason and has had stints on their practice squad and active roster.

The Bucs also placed cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah on injured reserve. He had missed four games with a suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and has not practiced since his suspension ended due to an unspecified injury.

The Bucs also signed offensive lineman Josh Allen back to their practice squad after he was waived by the 49ers last week and released defensive tackle Rodney Coe from the practice squad to make room.

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.