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Bucs re-sign Walker, maintain continuity
Keeping the offensive lineman means all but one starter from last season's playoff game will return.
By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published March 25, 2006
Kenyatta Walker believes he had his best season in 2005, and the Bucs apparently agree.
Tampa Bay re-signed the right tackle Friday, meaning the Bucs will go into 2006 with 21 of the 22 starters from January's playoff game. Terms weren't disclosed.
After several tackles expressed interest but signed elsewhere, notably Tom Ashworth with Seattle on Thursday, Tampa Bay opted for familiarity and continuity. Last season's entire offensive line is under contract.
"Kenyatta ... helped us make the playoffs," coach Jon Gruden said in a statement. "We made great strides on offense last season, and it was our goal to keep everyone on board so that we could continue that improvement."
The Bucs drafted Walker, 27, 14th overall in 2001, and his career has been a series of highs and lows. Walker, unavailable for comment, has endured two position changes (to left tackle and back) and been criticized for his propensity for penalties.
But Walker, 6 feet 5, 302 pounds, improved drastically in 2005, arguably becoming the line's most consistent player while starting every game.
And he had his best game of the season Dec. 11 against one of his primary nemeses, Julius Peppers of the Panthers, making up for a poor performance against the defensive end earlier in the season.
Besides Ashworth, Jason Fabini signed with Dallas. The Bucs also were negotiating with the Titans' Brad Hopkins, who is still available. Each made multiple visits and fielded offers from several teams.
Walker, meanwhile, drew little interest, making his first visit, to Atlanta, earlier this week.
His return makes safety Dexter Jackson the only starter to have left. Jackson signed with Cincinnati.
Also Friday, the Bucs completed a visit with Oakland defensive back Charles Woodson, reuniting him with his former general manager (Bruce Allen) and coach (Gruden).
But Woodson, 29, left without a contract and likely will visit other teams. The degree of Tampa Bay's interest remains to be seen, but it became clear Friday it envisions him at free safety, Jackson's former position.
The Bucs have been pleased with third-year safety Will Allen, but depth was a serious issue last season because of injuries.