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Bucs come up empty on 2009 NFL draft class

Josh Freeman, selected 17th overall in 2009 after the Bucs traded up to get him, is competing to be Eli Manning's backup with the Giants.
Josh Freeman, selected 17th overall in 2009 after the Bucs traded up to get him, is competing to be Eli Manning's backup with the Giants.
Published May 1, 2014

TAMPA — If nothing else, the Bucs' 2009 draft class was expected to at least bring them a franchise quarterback.

Josh Freeman, selected 17th overall from Kansas State after the Bucs traded up to get him, was supposed to solve Tampa Bay's revolving door under center. But after Freeman's messy exit, unceremoniously released last fall, there is no remaining draft pick from 2009 on the current roster.

"It's surprising," said tackle Xavier Fulton, the Bucs' fifth-round pick that year from Illinois. "Those are some pretty amazing athletes. The NFL business, it's a brutal one sometimes."

Of the six picks, three are in the NFL and two in the Canadian Football League, including Fulton, the starting left tackle for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Seventh-round receiver Sammie Stroughter, who hasn't played in the NFL since 2012, is hoping to land a CFL or Arena league gig.

But it all started with Freeman, who showed flashes of potential, putting himself in Bucs record books before a puzzling descent in 2013. Freeman, a four-year starter and former captain, is trying to save his career with the Giants, hoping to back up Eli Manning.

But the Bucs got more out of Freeman than they did most of their 2009 selections. Defensive tackle Roy Miller, a third-rounder, played in 62 games over four seasons, becoming a solid contributor at nose tackle for three of them despite being slowed by injuries and scheme changes. Miller signed a two-year, $4.5 million deal with the Jaguars in 2013.

Defensive end Kyle Moore, a fourth-rounder from Southern Cal, was thought to be part of the defensive front foundation. Moore played in just 15 games, starting the first seven in 2010, racking up 28 combined tackles in an injury-plagued tenure. He was released in September 2011, with brief stints with Detroit and Chicago, last playing in the NFL in 2012 with the Bills. Moore signed in April with the CFL's Toronto Argonauts.

Fulton has never played in an NFL regular-season game. He tore his ACL in the final preseason game of his rookie year and was cut in September 2010, an injury he said took him a couple years to fully recover.

"It was unfortunate," Fulton said. "I did my best to show them what I had and still it wasn't enough. They did what they had to do."

Fulton bounced from practice squads with the Redskins, Colts and 49ers before latching on in 2012 with the Roughriders. Fulton also had success in boxing, winning a Golden Gloves title in Chicago.

E.J. Biggers suited up in 45 games, with 24 starts, over three seasons in Tampa Bay, not bad for a seventh-round pick. He had just three interceptions and two forced fumbles, signing with the Redskins as a free agent in 2013, reuniting him with former Bucs coach Raheem Morris.

The other seventh-rounder, Stroughter, had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Panthers in Week 6 of 2009. Though Stroughter showed promise as a third-down slot receiver and kick returner, injuries limited him to just 33 games over four seasons.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.