By Jeff Berlinicke
TAMPA – While Cadillac Williams has been getting all the hype as the Bucs new mail carrier, a free agent running back, two years removed from his last game may turn out to be the steal of the Buccaneers off season.
Derek Watson lit up the Southeastern Conference as a running back at South Carolina until he was kicked off the team for repeated marijuana use. During three years with the Gamecocks, (1999-2001) Watson rushed for 2,374 yards and 19 touchdowns to go with 64 receptions. After being released by South Carolina coach Lou Holtz, Watson transferred to South Carolina State for the 2002 season.
He was given a chance with the New England Patriots last summer, but was released before playing a down. Still, Watson is fast and is a multiple threat coming out of the backfield. An impressive summer camp could make it easier for the Bucs to release incumbent starter Michael Pittman who struggled with fumbles last season. It would help the Bucs work with their salary cap woes, as they are way under the cap.
Watson impressed Bucs coach Jon Gruden during mini-camp last week and was one of four players out of more than 50 who attended to earn free agent contracts.
Watson appeared humble to get another chance after wasting several since he started college.
"I'm very fortunate just to get the opportunity,'' Watson said. "It's very seldom that a guy gets cut from an NFL football team his rookie season and he's been out of football for two years and he gets a chance to start it back up with another team.''
Watson still has an uphill climb. Only one free agent signed after the May mini-camp last season – offensive lineman Mike Moroz – and he was released prior to training camp.
Other free agents signed during the camp were Carlos Campbell (WR), James Patrick (DB), and Kevin Fischer (G).
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