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Bucs add depth by bringing back Stevens for second season

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers added depth to a key position on Friday, while simultaneously clearing a muddled picture at another.

The Bucs re-signed unrestricted free agent tight end Jerramy Stevens, who finished strong with Tampa in 2007. To make room for Stevens on the 80-man offseason roster, the Bucs released quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.

Stevens played in 15 games, starting three, during his first season in Tampa after spending his first five NFL seasons with Seattle. He gradually worked his way into the rotation during the season, and caught eight passes for 103 yards and three touchdowns during the final two games.

Stevens, a former first-round pick by the Seahawks, joined the Bucs as an unrestricted free agent last offseason.

Bringing back Stevens adds to an already solid group of tight ends. The Bucs had already signed veteran free agents John Gilmore of the Chicago Bears and Ben Troupe of the Tennessee Titans this offseason. Fourth-year player Alex Smith, a third-round pick by the Bucs in 2005, returns as the starter.

The release of Gradkowski, one of six quarterbacks on the roster, wasn't much of a surprise. The Bucs had publically said only five quarterbacks would be invited to training camp, likely leaving Gradowski or fellow backup Luke McCown as the odd man out.

With Jeff Garcia entering his second season with the team as the likely starter and the trade for veteran Brian Griese giving the Bucs an experienced backup, Tampa still has McCown, Chris Simms and fifth-round draft pick Josh Johnson on the roster.

Gradkowski played sparingly in four games last season, completing 13-of-24 passes for 130 yards and one intercpetion. He saw significant playing time as a rookie in 2006 as an injury replacement for Simms, starting 11 of his 13 games and completing 54.0 percent of his passes for 1,661 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Gradkowski was a sixth-round draft pick of the Buccaneers in 2006.

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