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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs tender WR Adam Humphries, 3 others for 2017

Exclusive-rights free agents are something of a formality in NFL transactions, as all a team must do to retain an ERFA is tender a one-year, league-minimum contract.

The Bucs did just that with four of their six ERFAs on Monday, extending tenders to WR Adam Humphries, DB Jude Adjei-Barimah, LB Adarius Glanton and WR Freddie Martino for the 2017 season. The team still has TE Cameron Brate to be tendered as an ERFA, as well as DE Howard Jones, who is recovering from knee surgery last fall.

Once the tenders are signed, those four players are on the roster to compete for jobs this fall, and would be restricted free agents next spring in 2018.

-- Humphries, 23, became the Bucs' No. 2 receiver after a slew of injuries. He finished with 55 catches for 622 yards and two touchdowns. The undrafted player out of Clemson has more catches in two years (82) than all but four of the 31 receivers who were drafted in 2015. …

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Bucs' Brent Grimes earned $1-million in playing-time incentives

Brent Grimes actually earned $8-million for his first year in Tampa Bay, and he'll have an even better chance to boost his $6.5-million pay in 2017.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Brent Grimes actually earned $8-million for his first year in Tampa Bay, and he'll have an even better chance to boost his $6.5-million pay in 2017.

If there were any questions about Brent Grimes' durability when he signed with the Bucs last spring, he answered those during the 2016 season, and now has a cool $1-million to show for that.

Grimes, 33, played in 94 percent of the Bucs' defensive snaps last season -- he missed only 64 snaps all season, including 48 in one game when he injured his quad early in the Bucs' win at Kansas City. So in addition to his $7-million in regular compensation, he triggered two incentives in his contract -- $500,000 for playing in 70 percent of the Bucs' defensive snaps, and another $500,000 for playing in 80 percent of the defensive snaps. Had he made it to the Pro Bowl on the original roster -- going as an alternate or injury replacement doesn't trigger it -- he would have earned another $250,000 bonus.

So Grimes actually earned $8-million for his first year in Tampa Bay, and he'll have an even better chance to boost his $6.5-million pay in 2017. Grimes can pick up $500,000 incentives each if he plays in 60 percent, 70 percent and 80 percent of the Bucs' defensive snaps, and the same $250,000 for making the Pro Bowl on the original ballot. …

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NFL Draft Q&A: Texas A&M tackle Avery Gennesy

Texas A&M offensive tackle Avery Gennesy was the Aggies' starting left tackle for the last two years.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Texas A&M offensive tackle Avery Gennesy was the Aggies' starting left tackle for the last two years.

Our daily NFL Draft Q&A series continues today with Texas A&M offensive tackle Avery Gennesy, who was the Aggies' starting left tackle for the last two years. Texas A&M has a strong streak going with four straight years with an offensive lineman taken in the first round -- Luke Joeckel, Jake Matthews, Cedric Ogbuehi and Germain Ifedi. That streak is likely to end this year, but Gennesy is working to improve his draft position and took a few minutes to talk with us. ...

Q: Where are you training to get ready for the combine and pro day?

A: "I'm working out in Duluth, Ga., with Chip Smith Performance Systems. It's going pretty good, getting better every day.

Q: You were listed at 6-5, 305 at A&M. What's an accurate height and weight for you right now?

A: "It's probably 6-3, 314 now. I've gained weight since I've been here. I don't look like I've added any weight, so it's good weight."

Q: You played left tackle both years at Texas A&M. Where do you think you fit in best on an NFL offensive line?

A: "I think I can be a left tackle or right tackle, guard. I would love to try (guard) out. I played guard at the East-West Shrine Game and played well at the position. …

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Hate to admit it: Bucs are the best choice for Hard Knocks

Jameis Winston could be ratings gold. The camera captures charisma. Cut to Winston driving in the dark to One Buc Place, interacting with coaches and teammates. Oh, the motivational moments. (“We some dogs, we ain’t no puppies!’)

Mike Evans is a budding superstar, but not shy about speaking his mind. You will see the intensity of Kwon Alexander and Robert Ayers. There will be bleeps. Gerald McCoy is constantly counting his blessings.

Coach Dirk Koetter is a heck of a lot more intense than anybody outside of One Buc Place realizes.

The Bucs are among the eight potential teams that can be mandated by the NFL to appear on the HBO series Hard Knocks for 2017. It’s hard to imagine the franchise will ever lobby to become part of the weekly preseason program. But there is an upside to marketing your product, especially if the arrow is pointing up.

The Bucs are coming off a 9-7 season where they narrowly missed the playoffs. It’s an important year and tension is good television for the NFL Films production. …

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NFL Draft Q&A: Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker

Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44) had 16 sacks this past season, solidifying himself as a pass-rusher who is likely to go in the top 50 picks in the draft.

MONICA HERNDON | Times

Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44) had 16 sacks this past season, solidifying himself as a pass-rusher who is likely to go in the top 50 picks in the draft.

Our daily NFL Draft Q&A continues with Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker, who decided to come back for his senior year and stepped up with 16 sacks, solidifying himself as a pass-rusher who is likely to go in the top 50 picks in the draft. He took time to talk with us about his favorite sack, playing with Jameis Winston and his preparation for the draft ...

Q: The combine is now a week away. Where are you training for get yourself ready for that and pro day?

A: I'm at EXOS in Pensacola and still training for pro day back in Tallahassee. From the o-line and d-line, I see (Indiana's) Dan Feeney here, (Temple's) Dion Dawkins, Caleb Brantley out of Florida, those type of guys.

Q: What have been the key things you wanted to improve and work on for the combine?

A: "Just getting in shape. That's the main thing. Getting better in every single aspect: strength, quickness, speed, footwork. My explosiveness, my technique in running, bench-pressing, just getting stronger."

Q: FSU had listed you at 6-foot-4, 280 pounds. Where are you now?

A: "They measured me (here) at 6-4, 275."

Q: How much do you think you helped yourself coming back for your senior year? …

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Bucs to release cornerback Alterraun Verner

The Bucs are releasing veteran cornerback Alterraun Verner.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

The Bucs are releasing veteran cornerback Alterraun Verner.

The Bucs are releasing veteran cornerback Alterraun Verner, who was due to make $6.5-million this season but had fallen into a backup role behind Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves.

Verner, 28, came to the Bucs in free agency in 2014 and started 14 games, but was limited to six starts in 2015 and three last season. The Bucs take no salary-cap hit for releasing him, and Verner gets a head start on free agency, which begins in two weeks.

"I would like to thank the Glazers, Jason Licht, Dirk (Koetter) and Lovie (Smith) for allowing me the opportunity to compete as a Buccaneer these past three years," Verner wrote in a post on Instagram. "I have learned so much over these years and i appreciate everything that they have done for me. I will miss my teammates, the community, and the fans for their support of me as a player and personally. You guys always had my backs. Sorry that we couldnt have succeeded more with my time there but there are great times ahead in Tampa Bay."  …

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Bucs Licht needs to duplicate free agent success of 2016

Brent Grimes was the only Bucs defender to have a rating over 90 or better by Pro Football Focus.

LOREN ELLIOTT | Times

Brent Grimes was the only Bucs defender to have a rating over 90 or better by Pro Football Focus.

Free agency can be the cubic zirconium of the NFL. Fool’s gold. The Bucs have experienced that many times over.

But general manager Jason Licht and his staff have built a solid core of players through the draft and their approach to free agency has changed for the better.

Licht just needs to build on the success he had last year in free agency and it will become an important tool to push the Bucs into playoff contention. Consider what the Bucs were able to do last year and the important contributions free agents made in 2016.

Cornerback Brent Grimes had gone to three straight Pro Bowls with the Dolphins and had played for defensive coordinator Mike Smith in Atlanta. But he was 33 entering last season and many wondered how much he had left in the tank.

The answer was plenty.

He signed a two-year, $13.5-million contract and tied for the team lead with safety Keith Tandy with four interceptions, including one for a touchdown. He also led the club with 24 passes defensed. In fact, Grimes was the only Bucs defender to have a rating over 90 or better by Pro Football Focus. …

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NFL Draft Q&A: Miami tight end David Njoku

Miami tight end David Njoku is challenging Alabama's O.J. Howard as the top tight ends in this draft class.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Miami tight end David Njoku is challenging Alabama's O.J. Howard as the top tight ends in this draft class.

Our NFL Draft Q&A series continues with Miami tight end David Njoku, who is challenging Alabama's O.J. Howard as the top tight ends in this draft class, despite being playing only two seasons with the Hurricanes. He had only one touchdown as a redshirt freshman in 2015, but scored eight this past season, showing off his athleticism on a 6-foot-4, 245-pound frame. You'll see him pop up at the end of the first round in some mock drafts, and he took a minute to talk about preparation for next week's NFL combine ...

Q: Where are you training to get ready for combine and pro day?

A: "I'm training at Core Fitness in Miami. We have Stacy Coley, our receiver from University of Miami; Corn Elder, the cornerback; Jamal Carter, safety; Stan Dobard, a tight end from Miami, (corner) Larry Hope, who left Miami and transferred to go to Akron; Brandon Radcliff, running back from Louisville."

Q: What are the things you've focused on most as you prepare for the combine?

A: "Every aspect. They don't just focus on one thing, so I'm working really hard down here to be a better me and see how far I can go." …

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Jameis Winston taking online classes toward degree at FSU

As part of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston's appearance at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, he took questions from a panel of five young journalists from the "Manatee Messenger," the school's student paper. The kids came up with some fun questions that yielded some insightful and even newsy answers from Winston:

-- Winston said he's taking classes online this spring to get closer to earning his degree from Florida State. He took some last summer and is doing so in spring and summer this year -- he later said he's still about 26 credit-hours short of his degree, but committed to getting it.

"I'm taking classes right now. I'm focusing on graduating college. That's a big accomplishment," Winston told the students. "I've got to get my mama that degree. How many of you are going to get your mama that degree?"

-- Winston had a bad misstep ("a poor word choice," he admitted) in what Tom Jones wrote about in today's paper, but it's important to reiterate that most of what he said was on point in giving the students -- boys and girls -- a positive message about believing in themselves. …

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NFL Draft Q&A: Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu

Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu had 24 tackles in his final college game and possesses a 37-inch vertical.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu had 24 tackles in his final college game and possesses a 37-inch vertical.

Our daily NFL Draft Q&A series continues (a bit late today) with Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu -- that's Henry William Obiajulu Melifonwu, one of the better names and better stories in the draft. His parents were born in Nigeria and moved to England, where he was born and lived until moving to the United States at age 3. He's a legit 6-foot-4 as measured at the Senior Bowl, with more ridiculous numbers, like 24 tackles in his last game and a 37-inch vertical. He took time to talk with us Wednesday ...

Q: You're actually here in Tampa to train for the combine and pro day. How did that come about? …

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Bucs QB Jameis Winston: 'I would love to have DeSean'

ESPN's Josina Anderson reported Tuesday that the Bucs were a "possible destination" for free-agent receiver DeSean Jackson, citing an "existing rapport" that he has with Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.

Winston spoke briefly Wednesday afternoon after talking to students at Melrose Elementary in St. Petersburg, and said he'd welcome Jackson as another weapon for the Bucs' passing game in 2017.

"I've met him before, and we want DeSean. You better believe we want DeSean here," Winston said. "I think he would be a great asset to our team. Me growing up an Eagles fan, seeing what he did for the Eagles and back in his Cal days and even with the Redskins, I would love to have DeSean."

Winston didn't specifically remember where he had met Jackson, saying only that it was "a while back," but he likes the idea that his success in two NFL seasons can be part of the Bucs' allure to free agents, and he can be something of a recruiter, like he was in college at FSU.

"I feel like I can be one of our best recruiters," he said. "My main focus is to win. That's what I enjoy doing." …

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Q&A with ex-Bucs CB Donnie Abraham, now coaching at Illinois

Donnie Abraham joined Lovie Smith's coaching staff at Illinois.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Donnie Abraham joined Lovie Smith's coaching staff at Illinois.

Former Bucs cornerback Donnie Abraham went straight from the NFL into coaching, working at a handful of Pinellas County high schools and then the last two years at IMG Academy in Bradenton. He took a big leap last week, joining Lovie Smith's coaching staff at Illinois, also reuniting with former teammate Hardy Nickerson, Smith's defensive coordinator. He took a few minutes this week to talk about his excitement for his new job. ...

Q: You and Lovie go back a long way, but how did this come about?

A: "I've always had an interest in moving up. It's tough to break into college or even NFL, so I had feelers out there over the past few months. I've always kept in touch with Lovie and I just got the call. He gave me a call to see how I was doing, how things were at IMG, to catch up a little bit. We hung up and probably five or six hours later, he called me back to let me know he had a position open and would I be interested. I said 'Absolutely!'"

Q: You jumped right in with spring ball so you haven't had much time to catch your breath, but how do you like it? …

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Bucs reach settlement with Lawrence Tynes in MRSA lawsuit

Lawrence Tynes never played for the Bucs, and didn't play again after his MRSA infection in 2013.

AP photo

Lawrence Tynes never played for the Bucs, and didn't play again after his MRSA infection in 2013.

The Bucs have reached a settlement with former kicker Lawrence Tynes, who had sued the team in 2015, seeking $20-million and claiming that their negligence regarding a MRSA infection ended his NFL career in 2013.

According to Hillsborough County court records, Tynes and the team signed off Feb. 10 on paperwork to "jointly stipulate and agree to dismissal" of his lawsuit, which had progressed in the courts for two years and was scheduled for pre-trial conference in August.

As recently as December, Tynes' attorney had argued against the team's request for a summary judgment in the case, writing that their request was "astonishingly deficient."

There were no financial details of the settlement, which typically would carry confidentially clauses for both parties. Both the team and his attorneys declined to comment on the resolution Tuesday afternoon.

Tynes, 38, was paid his $905,000 salary by the Bucs in 2013, but the team classified his toe infection as a "non-football injury." The team reached a $3-million settlement in July 2014 with former Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks, another player who was sidelined with MRSA in 2013 and "stepped away" from football after the settlement was reached. …

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NFL Draft Q&A: Arkansas DL Jeremiah Ledbetter

Our daily NFL Draft Q&A continues with Arkansas defensive lineman Jeremiah Ledbetter, who grew up in Orlando but finished his high school career in Gainesville, Ga., and redshirted at junior college before landing with the Razorbacks. At 6-foot-3, 278 pounds, he's likely an end in the NFL but is strong enough to get a look inside as a three-technique as well. He took a few minutes to talk about his path to the upcoming draft. ...

Q: First, where are you training for the draft?

A: "In Pensacola as EXOS. My agent recommended them with their past trainees. We've got (Temple OL) Dion Dawkins up here, (Florida DT) Caleb Brantley, (Clemson DT) Carlos Watkins, (Indiana OL) Dan Feeney and others."

Q: How has that gone for you so far?

A: "Pretty good. It's coming in and working hard every day, following the process they have for us. I'm getting my times down, my bench press. I know what I can do. It's just me going out and performing and showing everybody that I can do it."

Q: What's a good number for you in bench press, in terms of how many reps at 225 pounds?

A: "At least 30. I'll go for 35 or 40."

Q: You don't hear big linemen talking about their vertical leap much. How much can you get there? …

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What should Bucs do at No. 19? Fans say RB, WR

Tight end, where some mock drafts have paired the Bucs with Alabama's O.J. Howard, got only 2.7 percent of the votes in a Bucs fan poll.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Tight end, where some mock drafts have paired the Bucs with Alabama's O.J. Howard, got only 2.7 percent of the votes in a Bucs fan poll.

The Bucs' official site offered up an online poll this week that has drawn more than 14,000 votes: What position should Tampa Bay address with their first-round pick, No. 19 overall, in April's NFL Draft?

The answers are a good insight into what fans see as the team's biggest needs entering free agency: 37.8 percent answered "running back," now a major uncertainty with Doug Martin's suspension and potential release, and 32.0 percent answered "wide receiver," which is often seen as the team's most obvious match for the top pick.

To some extent, you can expect a skew toward the "fantasy football" positions, as fans know these names best, but those two options take up nearly 70 percent of a ballot that had 11 choices. There's a major dropoff to the next most popular picks: 8.1 percent for defensive end, 7.7 percent safety, 5.4 percent offensive tackle -- no other position drew so much as 3 percent of votes.

Tight end, for instance, where some mock drafts have paired the Bucs with Alabama's O.J. Howard, got only 2.7 percent of the votes; defensive tackle, a position the Bucs haven't' drafted in four years, got 2.4 percent. …

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