Long-standing Buccaneers fans may remember that the middle linebacker on the team’s lone Super Bowl team, Shelton Quarles, was a player plucked out of the Canadian Football League.
There’s no guarantee linebacker Jeff Knox Jr. will do for the Bucs what Quarles did for them back in the day but the Bucs do have reason to believe he can make an impact of some sort.
Before signing with the Bucs last week, Knox turned in two startling seasons with the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, including one in which he was named the team’s Most Outstanding Player.
That was in 2015, when Knox recorded 114 tackles and an interception while also making 10 special teams stops during a season in which he was named a West team All-Star.
Knox followed up this past season by recording 65 tackles, a sack and 19 coverage stops, numbers that strongly suggest he could earn a spot with the Bucs as a backup linebacker and special teams regular.
Knox has also played a bit of safety in his day. The Bucs, though, that the 6-foot-5, 225-pound native is best suited to play linebacker in their scheme, and they do have a need for upgrades there.
Veteran Daryl Smith didn’t make much of an impact as a strong-side backer a year ago, making just 35 tackles in what has become largely a backup role in coordinator Mike Smith’s scheme.
That’s one position where there will be increased competition for the “starter’s’’ snaps this year and Knox could be one of the competitors along with Devante Bond, the Bucs 2016 sixth-round draft pick.
The 6-foot-1, 236-pound Bond came to the Bucs as a developmental linebacker but his development was hampered this past season by a hamstring injury that cost him the entire season.
Knox, a small-school product out of California University of Pennsylvania, has already been through that developmental stage, but he has to prove he can do in the NFL what he did in the CFL.
He’ll have the entire offseason to show the Bucs he can do that which could make for an interesting battle for that strong-side linebacker’s job come training camp.