Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Trade Brings Elite TE Winslow
TAMPA - The free-agency signing period wasn't the only thing that began in the NFL on Friday. The league's trading period began anew as well, and that's the part the Bucs delved into. Sticking with their plan to get tougher, the Bucs sent two draft picks, including their second-rounder this year, to the Cleveland Browns for tight end Kellen Winslow. The deal also sends a fifth-round pick in 2010 to the Browns, but the Bucs believe Winslow will eventually justify the expense because he has always been more than just a tight end. Wildly competitive, often controversial and ultraversatile, Winslow can line up in the slot like a flanker or even as a wideout, and in new coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski's offense, he expects to do all of those things."I'll be in the slot, out wide a little, whatever they need to create mismatches," said Winslow, a fifth-year pro who, when healthy, is one of the game's most effective playmakers. Staying healthy, though, has long been a problem for Winslow. He broke his right leg two games into his rookie season and has twice undergone right knee surgery, both times as a result of a 2005 motorcycle accident. He also missed six games with a staph infection last season, but that didn't keep him from establishing himself as one of the game's most productive pass-catching tight ends. Since 2006, only two tight ends have caught more passes than the 214 Winslow has caught, and only four have gained more yards than the 2,409 Winslow has gained. It's no wonder that center Jeff Faine was glad to be back with him. "He has a great attitude, a great work ethic and he's a great athlete," said Faine, who played alongside Winslow in Cleveland in 2004 and 2005. "He's going to be a great addition. I think he'll really fit in well here." Winslow seems to like the fit. Though he said he enjoyed his time in Cleveland, the University of Miami product said he was excited to be returning to Florida. "Warm weather - my wife is going to like it," said Winslow, who was equally excited about teaming up again with Alfredo Roberts, the Bucs' new tight ends coach. Roberts was Winslow's position coach the last two years in Cleveland. Winslow described him as a great coach and expressed excitement about working for Bucs coach Raheem Morris, whom Winslow mistook upon meeting him. "I thought he was a player," Winslow said. "He had that walk. But when I met him, I fell in love with him. Him, the GM Mark Dominik, they're all great people to be around." Dominik said he feels the same about Winslow, whom he described as a "dynamic playmaker." Winslow, of course, has also proved to be a dynamic newsmaker during his college and pro career. As a collegian, he drew criticism for an angry tirade to reporters after he was asked about taunting a player he had injured with a clean block in a game against Tennessee. He later became embroiled in a long holdout over his first pro contract, and last year he was openly critical of the team's handling of his staph infection, which the team tried to keep quiet. Winslow believes he often has been misunderstood, and he thinks he has matured since the most notable of those instances took place during the game against Tennessee. "I think everybody makes mistakes, and the mistake I made when I was 19 years old was on national television and everybody saw it," he said. "I'm 25 now. As I stand before you now, I think I'm a changed man." Which players besides Winslow will become part of the changing Bucs is hard to tell. They have expressed strong interest in Steelers receiver Nate Washington, Bills cornerback Jabari Fletcher and Browns corner Daven Holly, but others who thought they were on the team's radar aren't. Among those disappointed in not hearing from the Bucs were Falcons linebacker Michael Boley, Giants running back Derrick Ward and Cowboys defensive end Chris Canty. The Bucs had some interest in defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, but Haynesworth wound up signing a seven-year, $100 million deal with the Washington Redskins. The Bucs are also believed to have some interest in Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but Houshmandzadeh has not put the Bucs on the list of teams he wants to join. The Bucs, meanwhile, are trying to do deals for many of their own free agents, including cornerback Phillip Buchanon, safety Jermaine Phillips and wide receiver Michael Clayton. Clayton has drawn interest from the Lions, Broncos, Vikings and Seahawks. It's uncertain what teams, if any, have expressed interest in Phillips, Buchanon or any of the Bucs' other free agents.
Reporter Roy Cummings can be reached at (813) 259-7979.
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