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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs sign OL Cousins, LB Fletcher

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Published:   |   Updated: March 17, 2014 at 06:55 AM

TAMPA — If anyone knows the true capabilities of free-agent offensive lineman Oniel Cousins, it’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line coach George Warhop.

Warhop coached Cousins in Cleveland each of the past three years and will coach him again after the Bucs announced the signing of the 6-foot-4, 315-pounder to a one-year deal on Sunday.

The Bucs also signed former Patriots backup linebacker Dane Fletcher to a one-year deal Sunday, adding what likely will be a core special teams player and possibly a red-zone fullback.

The 6-foot-2, 244-pound Fletcher played a little fullback at Montana State during his college career and occasionally worked at fullback in short-yardage and goal-line situations for the Patriots.

“Dane kind of has a good feel for that,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told the Worcester (Mass.) Telegram and Gazette back in 2011. “It’s different but similar to playing linebacker.

“At linebacker, you kind of have to see the hole like a back does. You don’t want to fill where your guys are, you want to fill where they’re not and fill in the space, and that’s the same space that the running back’s seeing.’’

Feltcher could replace Erik Lorig, a three-year starter for the Bucs at fullback who has yet to be re-signed by the team and spent Friday visiting the New Orleans Saints.

Fletcher, 27, is a four-year NFL veteran who missed all of 2012 with a torn ACL, but played in 15 games for New England last year, recording 26 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble, the third of his career.

Cousins, 29, came into the league in 2008 as a third-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens. But with only nine starts in 59 games, he has spent most of his career as a backup.

Cousins opened the 2013 season as the Browns’ starting right guard, but only after the losses of Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao to injury. Cousins lasted four games in that role.

Cousins received minimal playing time in six other games, but in 322 snaps overall last season allowed one quarterback sack, two quarterback hits and 21 quarterback hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.

Cousins entered the league as right tackle and has spent most of his career at that position, though he has taken snaps at left tackle and lined up as a third tight end/tackle.

The Bucs did not immediately say what their plans for Cousins, who is one of nine free agents from rival clubs signed by the Bucs since the free-agency signing period began last Tuesday.

Cousins joins left tackle Anthony Collins and center/guard Evan Dietrich Smith as the newcomers to the offensive line, which has undergone an aggressive makeover since the signing period began. The Bucs started the overhaul by releasing two-time Pro Bowl right guard Davin Joseph before free agency began and later released 2011 Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn, who will be replaced by Collins.

rcummings@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @RcummingsTBO

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