Top-level free agents receive phone calls from potential suitors at 12:01 a.m. on the first day of free agency.
Apparently third-string tight ends get those phone calls at 12:15 a.m.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers reportedly called Bears tight end John Gilmore at that time on Friday morning, and none other than Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was on the other end.
"I was asleep and I really was not expecting to hear anything until the weekend," Gilmore told the Chicago Sun-Times. "My agent (Chafie Fields) called me after 11 and woke me up. He said he had thrown a number out at Tampa Bay and they were going to get right back to him.
"The next thing I know I was on the phone with Gruden. He told me, ‘I don't think you realize how excited we are to have you. You definitely figure into what we're doing, we're going to get you very involved in a lot of two-tight end sets.' He wants me to do what I do and it sounds like I'll get to catch more footballs. He was a little bit more fired up than I probably sounded at the time."
It does beg the question — why Gilmore? The Bucs have been in pursuit of Alge Crumpler all week and this could be a signal that they feel that player has passed them by. The tight end pool isn't that deep after the Indianapolis' Dallas Clark, Philadelphia's L.J. Smith and Tennessee's Bo Scaife were either franchised or received high-round tenders.
But Gilmore? Take a look at his career and it leaves on curious as to the decision.
The former sixth-round pick has been used primarily as a blocker in double tight end formations and as part of numerous special teams units, recording 18 career receptions for 180 yards with 3 TDs and has 25 career special teams tackles.
Gilmore immediately becomes the Bucs' No. 2 tight end. So what does he really have to offer? I asked Bearreport.com's John Crist about Gilmore and he said Gilmore's meager receiving numbers don't tell the whole story.
"With Desmond Clark recently getting a contract extension and Greg Olsen being drafted in the first round a year ago, John Gilmore was never going to be more than the third tight end in Chicago," Crist said. "However, he was still a valuable player in this offense, serving as a glorified tackle and catching the occasional pass in short-yardage and goal-line situations. He's a better than average blocker at the position, although he's never had more than 10 receptions in any one season."
The Buccaneers love to run two tight end sets, so having a solid blocking tight end is important. If Gilmore is working as a "glorified tackle," he must be pretty good. When Anthony Becht decided to test free agency, he took the Bucs' best blocking tight end with him, so he has to be replaced.
Crist agreed and said that would likely be Gilmore's role early on.
"Gilmore will work just fine as a secondary player and can certainly help right away in the running game, but he's not a classic west-coast tight end and won't contribute much through the air," Crist said.
Becht didn't contribute much through the air last year, catching a handful of passes. That's why he was so eager to leave. Gilmore sounds more suited to the position, even though he wants to catch more passes.
The Bucs are known for eschewing big-ticket items for players that fit their system. The fact that the Bucs called Gilmore 15 minutes after free agency began indicates that the Bucs believe he's a great fit for their system. Why else would they pursue someone they could have had next week on Friday morning?
They obviously believe they have a diamond in the rough in Gilmore and appear willing to pay to get him.
But is he the right guy? Only time will tell.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.