TAMPA – It’s not very often that someone goes through all the trouble of stealing something only to give it back. That’s one of the reasons the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have decided to keep Canadian-born and bred tight end Antony Auclair, once a roster-long shot, on their team.
The Bucs didn’t really steal Auclair. Not even in the sense that football teams sometimes use that word to describe, for example, getting a player later in the draft than anyone thought they should have, such as the Bucs did with linebacker Kendell Beckwith.
Auclair was there for all the other 31 teams to draft and even after he went untouched through that process he was still there for the taking. It was the Bucs, though, who decided to reel him in based largely on what they saw of him three months earlier at the East West Shrine practices.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter went to those practices looking specifically for a tight end who had both the size to block effectively in the running game and catch passes in the passing and game and when he saw Auclair it was a little like love at first sight.
Auclair, who played his college ball well off the grid at Laval University in Quebec, Canada was raw, very raw; so raw he wasn’t even sure of all the rules of the American game but the Bucs and a few other teams saw the potential, which is why the Bucs feel fortunate to have him.
“Yeah, Antony is a guy that we’re really happy that we got as (an undrafted) free agent,’’ Koetter said Thursday night after Auclair got his most extensive look yet in the preseason, playing 48 snaps against the Redskins and catching a pair of passes for 8 yards.
“I think we got a steal in that guy, because there aren’t too many tight ends that are (256) pounds and can block at the line of scrimmage the way he can and really, after never having played in the states before.
“He’s a tough guy, a pretty smart guy and he’s still got a ways to go but we like his upside, I think he’ll find a home in the NFL somewhere, I really do.’’
That home is probably going to be Tampa. After all, why would a team go through all that the Bucs have in terms of developing Auclair to let some other team reap the benefits. It just seems a bit unlikely, even given the depth the Bucs have at tight end.
With Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard and Luke Stocker at the top of the depth chart the Bucs are not hurting at all at the position and they still have the versatile Alan Cross there as well. Auclair has a rare blend of skills, though, that no one outside of Howard may have.
It’s hard to imagine the Bucs letting a talent like that go, even it means having to carry what in essence is a developmental talent on the roster.
The Bucs have already informed tight end Tevin Westbrook that he’s going to be let go, which leaves the Bucs with five tight ends which is a little much but it’s also the number we’ve been hearing the team might keep for a while.
We’re going to be a bit surprised then if Auclair gets a visit from The Turk this weekend.