Free agent tight end Dallas Clark officially signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs, The Sports Xchange confirmed Monday. The move followed Kellen Winslow’s announcement earlier in the day that he has been apprised to remain away from the team’s OTA sessions because he no longer fits into the franchise’s plans.
Clark recently met with Tampa Bay coaches and team officials, but it appeared he still had some options with the other two clubs Clark visited with in recent weeks, New England and Kansas City, remaining in contact. It’s not clear if the Patriots or Chiefs tendered a formal contract proposal to the nine-year veteran.
The interest in the former Pro Bowl tight end essentially debunked a recent report that he might never play again because of injuries. Last month, agent Neil Cornrich told The Sports Xchange that he “would be surprised” and that “it would be news to (Clark)” if the report was accurate.
Clark, who will be 33 next month, has started only 16 games (17 appearances) the past two seasons because of wrist and fibula injuries. For his career, he has 427 catches for 4,887 yards and 46 touchdowns. In 2010, his last healthy season and the only year in his career in which he started all 16 games, Clark had 100 catches.
Winslow’s absence from early OTA sessions were said to have angered rookie coach Greg Schiano, and the Bucs clearly needed a tight end with the kind of receiving ability Clark has demonstrated in his career.
There are six other tight ends on the current Tampa Bay roster, in addition to Winslow, and none has more than a dozen career receptions. In fact, the six tight ends, two of whom are rookies, total only 19 receptions among them. Acquired from Cleveland in a 2009 trade, Winslow averaged 72.6 catches in his three seasons with the Bucs, and led the club in receptions each of the past three years.
Clark has generally been a “flexed” tight end much of his career, and the former Colts first-round choice was often aligned in the slot, or flanked as a wide receiver because of the matchup problems he created for secondaries. Because he is not regarded as a strong blocker, Clark might not be a perfect fit for the physical, run-first philosophy Schiano has espoused, but he will provide a presence in the middle of the field for the passing game if he proves healthy.
Even with the Bucs adding Clark, second-year veteran Luke Stocker, a fourth-round pick in 2011 who started nine games as a rookie, could remain the starter because of his in-line blocking skills.
The Sports Xchange