LB McDaniel Could Be Next

June 9 - With free agent wide receiver Keenan McCardell in the fold, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will turn their attention towards adding a veteran linebacker to shore up the team's linebacking corps. Former Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Ed McDaniel is the leading candidate and could be signed this week.

After finally ending its prolonged search for a new head coach with the acquisition of Jon Gruden, everything has seemed to go right for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Great successes in free agency and a pretty good draft despite not having a first- or second-round pick.

With the latest signing of elite wide receiver Keenan McCardell, it's still going right according to script for Tampa Bay.

The Buccaneers would seek "one or two free agents" after June 1 with one player being a starter and the other one a backup, general manager Rich McKay said in May. With team sources whispering about the desire to land a top-shelf receiver like McCardell to start opposite Keyshawn Johnson, and find a proven linebacker to shore up the team's depth, the Buccaneers appear ready to sign former Minnesota Vikings veteran Ed McDaniel this week.

After all, that would be going right along with the Buccaneers' script this offseason. first reported the Bucs interest in McDaniel on May 9, and the team has gone through a long, and frustrating courtship of the former Pro Bowl middle linebacker. Issues stemming from playing time, to appearing on special teams as well as money have kept the two sides from reaching a deal for over a month now.

But with the season drawing near, McDaniel doesn't appear to have many other options and is apparently leaning toward signing with Tampa Bay as opposed to being forced to sit out this season. The team feels that the 5-foot-11, 234-pound McDaniel could provide some insurance at the middle and strongside linebacker positions Shelton Quarles and Al Singleton will be manning for the first time.

The fact that McDaniel is familiar with the Bucs defensive concept having been coached by Monte Kiffin in Minnesota is one of the key reasons why Tampa Bay has more interest in McDaniel as opposed to other players such as former New Orleans Saints linebacker Keith Mitchell, who is also a free agent.

McDaniel was selected to his first and only Pro Bowl in 1998, but did not play in the game due to the knee injury he suffered against Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game. He led the Vikings with 155 tackles and seven sacks that season after making the move from weakside linebacker to middle linebacker at the end of the 1997 season. McDaniel started all 16 games and two playoff contests at middle linebacker that season.

His production has dipped each year since 1998 as he recorded 120 tackles in 1999, 119 in 2000 and just 74 in 2001 while starting 14 games last season. He has been bothered by knee troubles since the '98 season.

Throughout his nine-year career, McDaniel has logged 944 career tackles, 19.5 sacks, 15 forced fumbles and four interceptions. He was released by Minnesota on February 21 in a salary-cap move.

The Bucs had some initial interest in re-signing former Buccaneers middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson, but only for the league minimum.

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