Free-agent linebacker Jeremiah Trotter worked out for team officials in Tampa Bay on Thursday, one of three players the Buccaneers had in for a workout. Included among those players was former Bucs linebacker Al Singleton, a part of the Bucs’ Super Bowl championship team.
The Philadelphia Eagles released Trotter on Tuesday. Tampa Bay is one of several teams the nine-year veteran is reportedly considering.
Trotter (6-foot-1, 262 pounds) has played his entire career for Philadelphia and Washington. He has 940 career tackles and 12 1/2 quarterback sacks. He also has nine career interceptions, two of which when for touchdowns. But he lost his starting job to Omar Gaither recently, despite shedding 12 pounds in the offseason after absorbing criticism that he was too heavy to play the position.
Tampa Bay has a need at the position after the season-ending injuries to Antoine Cash and Sam Olajubutu last week left the Buccaneers with just seven linebackers. The Bucs traded an undisclosed draft pick to the Jets for Jerry Mackey, an undrafted free agent the Bucs invited to rookie camp in May and released a month later.
Trotter worked out in front of not only Gruden, but also defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and general manager Bruce Allen.
"We've competed against (Trotter) for years," Gruden said after Thursday morning’s team workout. "There's no question he's a very physical linebacker and I've got a lot of respect for the guy himself. He's a team guy. Al Singleton helped us win a Super Bowl championship. Other than that, we're going to keep our thoughts private and move on."
Trotter is a fiery on-field and locker room presence who could offer the Buccaneers a veteran backup to Barrett Ruud at middle linebacker. His reputation in the NFL is that of a high-energy run stopper who is excellent at the point of attack. He is not, however, considered as accomplished in pass coverage.
The Dallas Cowboys released Singleton, 32, during the offseason after four seasons. Singleton, considered a strong side linebacker, was primarily a backup for the Cowboys who saw his 2004 and 2005 seasons end with injuries. Singleton had just 18 tackles last season for the Cowboys.
The 10-year veteran spent his first six seasons with Tampa Bay, and enjoyed his best season in 2002, when he had 89 total tackles and two interceptions for the Buccaneers, en route to a Super Bowl championship.
The Eagles groomed Trotter to be their long-term middle linebacker when they drafted him in 1998. But four years later Trotter bolted to Washington for a rich, free-agent contract that never quite worked out. After two seasons, the Redskins released Trotter and he returned to Philadelphia, where he and head coach Andy Reid had not parted on the best of terms.
Trotter, however, worked his way back into Reid’s good graces in 2004 as a special teams performer, and when the Eagles needed to bolster their running game they turned to Trotter, who started the season’s final nine games, made the Pro Bowl and helped the Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX.
Trotter made 119 tackles last season for the Eagles, who chose to cut him to make room for Gaither.
“He’s a proud guy and for him to be a second-team player isn’t right for him,” Reid said after Trotter’s release. “He’s a team leader and that’s not a position you put him in.”
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, like most of his teammates, was shocked by the release of one of the Eagles’ most vocal, but respected, locker room leaders.
“I was truly shocked,” McNabb said. “It’s something that will take days for us to get over. We’ll see him again. I look forward to seeing him play again. I don’t think he’s done.”
Trotter was due to make nearly $9 million in base salary the next three seasons in Philadelphia.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors.