Kelly, 26, replaced Donnie Abraham as the team's starting left cornerback five games into the 2001 season due to his superior run support ability. Abraham was released on March 15 due to salary cap reasons. The Bucs would have had to pay Abraham a $500,000 roster bonus if he was kept on Tampa Bay's roster past Friday. Abraham left as the team's all-time interceptor with 31 picks in six seasons with the Buccaneers.
Picking off passes is not Kelly's strong suit. While Abraham had six interceptions as a nickel back last year, Kelly didn't register a single pick and only has four interceptions, including one in the playoffs, during his four-year Buccaneer career. Kelly only has one interception in the last 34 games.
Kelly has appeared in 64 games, primarily as the team's third cornerback in nickel situations, since the team drafted him in the second round in 1998. In addition to his three regular season interceptions, he had racked up 141 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
The team had brought in DeShea Townsend (Pittsburgh) and Corey Chavous (Arizona) for tryouts last week, but because of Kelly's experience in Monte Kiffin's cover 2 scheme, Kelly was re-signed over the two visiting corners.
Kelly will start opposite Pro Bowl corner Ronde Barber. Last year's third-round draft pick, Dwight Smith, will compete with Corey Ivy for the nickel back spot.
Become an insider today with a subscription to Buccaneer Magazine or by becoming a Club Insider. You can also become a subscriber to Buccaneer Magazine by calling 1-800-881-BUCS(2827).
Looking for the largest selection of Bucs merchandise on the internet? Check out BucGear.com.