"We signed Rickey Dudley because he is another experienced player in this league," said Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden. "We really think that he can help us."
Dudley, who was the Raiders 1996 first-round draft selection, will be reunited with Gruden, who coached Dudley in Oakland for three seasons. Under Gruden, Dudley started all 48 games and hauled in 104 passes for 1,454 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The 6-foot-6, 255-pound tight end is entering his seventh season in the NFL and spent 2001 with the Cleveland Browns after spending his first five seasons with the Raiders. Since entering the NFL out of Ohio State, Dudley has played in 84 games and started 83 of them and has 195 career receptions for 2,742 yards (14.1 avg.) and 29 touchdowns.
Dudley signed with the Browns as a free agent in '01, but his tenure in Cleveland was short-lived. After catching nine passes for 115 yards, Dudley was placed on the injured reserve on October 9, 2001 after he suffered a severe foot sprain. Dudley spent the 2002 preseason with the Browns, but was released by the team on Sept. 1.
The addition of Dudley, 30, suggests Gruden and Co. may not be pleased with the play of backup tight ends Marco Battaglia and Todd Yoder. Gruden's offense features plenty of two tight-end sets, but Yoder, not Battaglia, who signed a three-year contract worth $3 million with the Bucs during the offseason, has seen most of the action as the team's No. 2 tight end this season, which suggests the Bucs may not be pleased with Battaglia's play.
But the injury suffered by starting TE Ken Dilger (elbow contusion) during Sunday's game at Baltimore might have been another reason why the team decided to sign Dudley.
In order to make room for Dudley on its 53-man roster, the Buccaneers released second-year guard Russ Hochstein, which leaves Tampa Bay with just eight offensive linemen on its 53-man roster. Hochstein could, however, rejoin the Bucs on the team's five-man practice squad at a later date. The Bucs drafted Hochstein in the fifth round of last year's draft, but he was inactive for all 16 games last season due to injuries and saw limited action in one game this season.
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