Those never-say-die surprising Buccaneers If the previous two seasons had been disappointing, then 2005 was totally the opposite for Tampa Bay fans. With no-one realistically expecting better than an 8-8 season, Jon Gruden led his team to a 4-0 opening and an 11-5 mark overall and the NFC South Division title. Once again play-off football came to Raymond James Stadium as an influx of good new and more importantly, young talent, arrived at One Buc Place. Free agency saw the usual array of comings and goings from One Buc Place, but unlike the previous two seasons, the net result was a better team overall. Long-time Bucs Chartric Darby (Seattle), Cosey Coleman (Cleveland) and Dwight Smith (New Orleans) found pastures anew, whilst the likes of Joe Jurevicius, Brad Johnson and Tim Brown were not offered new deals in Tampa. Arrivals in the same method were a decent third receiver (Ike Hilliard), a strong blocking tight end (Anthony Becht) and a former golden boy on the defensive line in Minnesota (Chris Hovan), And then came the draft - picking fifth was higher than the Bucs had been in over a decade and they made it count. Top pick RB Carnell "Cadillac" Williams merely became the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year, third pick TE Alex Smith became a main receiving threat and fourth pick G Dan Buenning started every game at right guard. It was only that 2nd pick LB Barrett Ruud was up against two of the finest players at their positions in Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles, that this was not a perfect four out of four in terms of selections. The schedule at the outset looked daunting with trips to Minnesota and Green Bay in the first three weeks alone. But the Vikings struggled coming out of the gate and the Packers' 2005 demise was more surprising than the Bucs' own upturn. Coupled with a dominating defensive performance against Buffalo and a somewhat fortunate escape against Detroit, Tampa Bay found itself at 4-0 and leading the NFC come the end of September. Unexpected losses in New York and San Francisco caused a few people to jump off the bandwagon, and more stepped off when QB Brian Griese was lost for the season to a knee injury. But the return of Cadillac Williams from a two-week injury absence and the emergence of Chris Simms as a bona fide NFL starting quarterback, saw the Buccaneers jump back into contention with a series of wild victories including an incredible 36-35 triumph over Washington that saw Jon Gruden go for the win on a two-point conversion in the final minute. Defeating each of their division rivals on the road put the Bucs in pole position for the NFC South title and thanks to another nerve-biting win (this one over Atlanta), and then a steam-rollering of the hapless homeless Saints in the season finale, the Buccaneers found themselves back in the post-season for the first time since Super Bowl XXXVII. But that was where the luck ran out on a fortunate season. Two defensive turnovers left the Bucs in a 14-0 hole early and although they fought back, the Redskins proved just too strong and the comeback fell just short when Edell Shepherd dropped what would have been the game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. But this was a great season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After seasons of disappointment (2002 excepted), this was a season of surprise and optimism for the future. And one that Buc fans can look back on with great satisfaction. Their team was back.
PLAYERS OUT DL Chidi Ahanotu WR Tim Brown LB Keith Burns (UFA - DEN) G Cosey Coleman (UFA - CLE) FB Greg Comella DL Chartric Darby (UFA - SEA) T Derrick Deese TE Ken Dilger TE Rickey Dudley CB Mario Edwards RB Charlie Garner LB Ian Gold S John Howell CB Corey Ivy QB Brad Johnson WR Joe Jurevicius WR Charles Lee G Matt O’Dwyer (UFA - GB) DB Dwight Smith (UFA - NO)
PLAYERS IN TE Anthony Becht (UFA - NYJ) K Matt Bryant (UFA - MIA) WR Ike Hilliard (UFA - NYG) DT Chris Hovan (UFA - MIN) QB Luke McCown (Trade - CLE) QB Tim Rattay (Trade - SF)
TRADES 24 Apr   Traded a 2005 5th round pick to the St.Louis Rams for 2005 5th and 7th round picks. 24 Apr   Traded a 2005 6th round pick to Cleveland for QB Luke McCown.  19 Aug   Traded a undisclosed conditional draft pick to Dallas for T Sam Wilder. 18 Oct   Traded a 2006 6th round pick to San Francisco for QB Tim Rattay.