Ben Troupe came out of the University of Florida and made quite a splash with the Tennessee Titans his first two seasons. He caught 33 passes his rookie season and then improved to 55 receptions his second season. Many thought Troupe was an ascendant star at a position that was gaining national notoriety in the NFL.
So what happened next? Troupe caught 13 passes in 2006 and just 5 passes in 2007. Hence, the Titans allowed him to test free agency and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him.
To hear Bucs GM Bruce Allen tell it, signing Troupe is just as good as drafting a tight end in 2007.
"We liked him out of college," Allen said. "We understood why Tennessee took him. He had a real good second year in the NFL and was real productive. Last year he didn't get much time. He has natural talent and skills that are hard to find.
"We can all get excited about the potential of draft picks, but we saw him as someone that, if he was in the draft, we would consider him early."
Head coach Jon Gruden values tight ends in his offense, and the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder clearly fits the bill. His size, speed and hands can make him a valuable target in the passing game. That was clearly on display when the Titans met the Eagles in Week 11 last season. Troupe caught a touchdown pass from Vince Young by leaping in the air with a defender on his back.
Scout.com's Adam Caplan said the dropoff in Troupe's production after the 2005 season was hard to explain. In fact, Troupe didn't even make the Titans' final roster after the preseason. They re-signed him later.
There are scouts that say that while Troupe is quick and a sharp route-runner, he also tends to think too much in the field and that seems to hinder his ability to make adjustments.
Scaife caught 37 receptions while making just five starts in 2005, the same year Troupe caught his career-high 55 passes. The next year, as Troupe's production declined, Scaife's increased. He caught 29 passes in 2006 and then 46 in 2007.
Tennessee's offense has become less reliant on the tight end since the emergence of Vince Young at quarterback, who is more apt to do downfield or to run the ball than to check down to a third or fourth option such as a tight end or fullback.
The Titans also wooed and signed former Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler, lessening the sting of losing Troupe.
Troupe clearly will be the No. 2 pass receiving tight end for the Bucs. Alex Smith is entrenched at No. 1 and has put up consistent, albeit not eye-popping numbers, the last three years. Troupe will likely be used in two-tight end sets that emphasize multiple pass routes. He may even see some time lined up in the slot. But you may see Troupe lined up less in blocking situations, as the team is pleased with Smith's progress as a blocker and signed John Gilmore away from Chicago to help in that department.
But The Bucs clearly think highly of Troupe's talent and it's clear he'll get every chance possible to make an impact on the passing game. If he can shed the baggage of his last two years in Tennessee, it's possible to imagine Troupe catching 25 passes in 2008.
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.