Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Tanner Hudson could get another shot at catching a touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady in the Super Bowl after becoming an exclusive rights free agent on Tuesday.
Hudson, long-snapper Zach Triner, and defensive linemen Jeremiah Ledbetter and Patrick O’Connor received extended tender offers, making them exclusive rights free agents, per Buccaneers.com reporter Scott Smith. Being an exclusive rights free agent means a player with an expiring contract has played three or fewer seasons according to NFL.com. The Bucs can offer the players league minimum pay on one-year contracts, protecting the players from other squads pursuing them per NFL.com.
Hudson, the Bucs’ third tight end, missed a potential touchdown grab from Brady in the Super Bowl. The former Division II Southern Arkansas standout had a better connection with Brady during the team’s Feb. 10 boat parade, thanking him for the season, per WTSP’s Grace Remington. “Thank you so much for this Tom. Absolutely the best day of my life,” Hudson said.
“You Made it,” Brady replied per Remington.
Hudson, who began 2020 on the practice squad, emerged as the third tight end after injuries to fellow tight ends O.J. Howard and Antony Auclair according to Smith. Hudson caught three passes for 41 yards, including a 20-yard pass at Detroit in December, amid 11 games played — including the playoffs.
His future on the depth chart versus practice squad remains in doubt if the Bucs keep Howard, Cameron Brate, and re-sign Rob Gronkowski.
Game Ball for O’Connor
O’Connor played in all of the Bucs’ games last season, which included 77% of special teams plays and some defensive snaps according to Smith.
The former Eastern Michigan standout blocked a punt in the Bucs’ win over Denver on Sept. 27, 2020. He also got the game ball for it per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
O’Connor, who spent a couple of seasons on practice squads before 2019, had four tackles and a sack, the first of his career, in 2020. He sacked Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins in the Bucs’ 26-14 win on Dec. 13, 2020.
“It’s been a long four years coming. It was the best feeling ever to be honest. I haven’t had one in so long,” O’Connor said in the postgame press conference. “All this work I put in leading up to this made it worth it.”
Triner played in all of the Bucs games as the long snapper for punts and kicks for a second season following a challenging journey.
The former Division II Assumption University standout worked out with four different NFL teams between 2015 and 2019 before the Bucs became the first to offer him a roster spot in 2019 per WEEI’s Ryan Hannable.
“I knew at that time they didn’t have a snapper and they were open to whoever won the job and that’s really all you can ask for,” Triner told Hannable.
Ledbetter Sacked Old Team
Ledbetter, similar to Hudson, had one of his bigger moments of the season in the blowout win over Detroit, getting a sack against his former team.
The Lions drafted him in the sixth round of the 2017 draft. He had 14 tackles and a half sack in his rookie season before joining the Bucs in 2018.
The former Arkansas standout spent time on both the Bucs practice squad and active roster last season.