5 Former Tigers Sign Free Agent Contracts

Three members of Clemson's offense that led the ACC in rushing offense, total offense and scoring offense have signed free agent contracts with NFL teams in the last three days.

The list includes offensive guard Nathan Bennett, offensive tackle Marion Dukes, and running back Reggie Merriweather.

Additionally, defensive backs Sergio Gilliam and Duane Coleman have also signed free agent contracts. They both helped Clemson to top 20 final rankings in pass defense, total defense and scoring defense during the 2006 season.

Bennett, a first-team All-ACC and third-team AP All-American, signed a free agent contract with the Carolina Panthers. Bennett was a four-year starter for the Tigers who led the team in knockdown blocks this past season. Dukes, who was a three year starter at offensive tackle, signed with the Miami Dolphins. Merriweather, Clemson's top rusher in 2004 as a sophomore and one of the top 20 touchdown scorers in Clemson history, signed with the San Diego Chargers.

Gilliam, a starter on Clemson's 2005 team that finished in the top 25 of both polls, signed with the Minnesota Vikings.

Coleman, who ranked fourth on the 2006 Clemson team in tackles with 81 and was an honorable mention All-ACC defensive back, signed with the Buffalo Bills. Coleman was Clemson's top rusher as a running back in 2003.

Clemson has had 40 former players go on to play in NFL games after signing a free agent contract. That includes Jamaal Fudge, a senior on the 2005 Clemson team who played in six games for the Jacksonville Jaquars last year. The list of former Tigers who made an NFL roster after signing as a free agent includes Jeff Bostic, who played 14 years and 184 games in the NFL. He played on three Super Bowl Championship teams in Washington, more than any other former Clemson player in history.

These five former Tigers will join five more 2006 team members who were drafted over the weekend. Gaines Adams was the fourth pick of the entire draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, tying Banks McFadden for the highest draft choice in Clemson history.

Anthony Waters, who played just one game last year due to a torn ACL, was a third-round choice of the San Diego Chargers. Starting center Dustin Fry went in the fifth round to the St. Louis Rams, while cornerback C.J. Gaddis was a fifth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. Two-time first-team All-ACC wide receiver Chansi Stuckey was a seventh round pick of the New York Jets.

Clemson's five draft choices ranked in a tie for first among ACC teams with Florida State and Miami (FL). The five selections tied for seventh best in the nation. Florida led the way with nine, followed by Ohio State with eight, Michigan, Notre Dame and Texas with seven apiece, and Tennessee with six. Clemson joined Auburn, Florida State, Hawaii, LSU, Miami (FL), Penn State and Southern Cal with five apiece.

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