MOBILE, Ala. — One of the NFL's worst-kept secrets is the fact the Bucs are keeping a keen eye on cornerbacks during this draft season.
As such, it was no surprise to find coach Greg Schiano, GM Mark Dominik and player personnel director Dennis Hickey following defensive backs around the field during workouts at the Senior Bowl this week.
The consensus top cornerback, Alabama's Dee Milliner, is an underclassman and not participating. But many other top prospects are present, including Washington's Desmond Trufant, one of the week's most consistent performers, Oregon State's Jordan Poyer and Utah State's Will Davis.
Trufant has been as impressive as any defensive player and could be pushing into the first round. His older brothers, Marcus (Seahawks) and Isaiah (Jets), are NFL cornerbacks. The 5-11, 190-pound Trufant distinguishes himself with physical play and strong man-to-man skills. He sees the latter as his meal ticket.
"We did everything" at Washington, he said. "We did a lot of man-to-man and Cover 2, Cover 3, Cover 4. But I feel like I'll be a good man-to-man corner."
Poyer is seen as another early round option. He wasn't as steady as Trufant in practices but had strong moments. He found the ball when down the field in coverage, showing good ball skills. Poyer had seven interceptions in 2012, with three against Washington State in October.
Asked about his strengths, Poyer mentioned that he has become "a student of the game. I really study the game a lot. I think I've been able to understand the game a lot more and that's helped me take my game to the next level."
Among the remaining cornerbacks the Bucs evaluated were UConn's Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson, San Diego State's Leon McFadden, Georgia's Sanders Commings and William & Mary's B.W. Webb.
BACK FOR MORE? TE Dallas Clark's comments after the Bucs' season finale suggested retirement was something he was considering. Though the team hasn't discussed re-signing him with his one-year contract set to expire, Clark's conversations with Schiano indicate he isn't ready to retire.
"I know Greg talked to him at the end of the season," Dominik said. "I don't think Dallas Clark is contemplating retirement. I don't get that sense from him. But at the same time, you have to sit back and look at the whole situation, and he's making his decision."
Tight end is among the positions the Bucs will consider upgrading, but Clark, 33, was relatively productive after two injury-filled seasons. The Bucs aren't ruling out a return.
"I need to talk to his agent first and see where they're at," Dominik said when asked if he wants to re-sign Clark.
"Can two people come together and make a deal. Until we have that conversation … but I was happy with the way Dallas Clark played this season. He played 16 solid games and stayed healthy, which is what a lot of outside people's concerns were."
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In other news, the Bucs signed DT Richard Clebert, who played at USF (2004-07) and was undrafted in 2008. He played with the Storm in 2011 and won Arena Football League championships with Spokane (2010) and Jacksonville (2011).
LOOKING FOR SHOTS: Two players who many have forgotten have been the subject of much conversation this week.
CB Tyrann "Honey Badger'' Mathieu, an All-American at LSU before his dismissal for failed drug tests, was in town to meet with teams and answer questions about his character. The Dolphins are reportedly interested. Another interesting prospect, injured South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore, took a break from rehabbing his injured right knee in nearby Pensacola to meet with teams and indicated he's coming along nicely and hopes to work out in April.