Bucs tight end Cade Otton set to become a parent. Is Pro Bowler next?

TAMPA — He’s relishing this blissful breakup to his normal offseason routine, which now includes cribs and crown molding interspersed with lifting, route-running and learning the nuances of yet another offensive playbook.

Third-year Bucs tight end Cade Otton and wife Sierra are expecting their first child — a girl — in June.

“Just started working on the nursery a couple of weeks ago, trying to be a handyman,” Otton said following the Bucs’ voluntary organized team activity on Tuesday. “Not doing a great job, but working on it.”

And so that gleeful, paternal vibe grows more profound in the Bucs locker room. Left tackle Tristan Wirfs and girlfriend Meredith Sutton welcomed a baby boy on April 3, six days before quarterback Baker Mayfield and wife Emily had their first child, a girl.

“We might have a really good women’s basketball team here in the next five or six years,” Otton joked.

Meantime, the trio of new dads figure prominently in new coordinator Liam Coen’s offense, which is expected to resuscitate the Tampa Bay run game while creating some promising matchups on the flank. Potentially critical to that scheme is Otton, who could break through as a pass-catcher and blocker in Coen’s system following a prolific 2023 postseason.

“I like just (Coen’s) mindset a lot. He talks about establishing the run first and foremost; that’s something we have to improve on from last year,” said Otton, who caught more passes (13, for 154 yards and a touchdown) than Mike Evans (11) in two playoff games last season.

“He has a lot of fundamental and concrete ways to do that, so (Tuesday) was a great first step, going against the defense for the first time. And then he’s going to do a lot of things to put us in positions to succeed. Getting numbers, different movements to make the defense think.”

One of the more unassuming figures in the locker room, Otton’s steady progress in two seasons has similarly remained under the radar.

He had 47 catches last season — five more than his rookie year — for 455 yards, increasing his yards-per-catch average from 9.3 to 9.7 while logging 97% of the team’s offensive snaps.

He also doubled his regular season touchdown-catch total from two to four, with the game-winning catch (with 31 seconds to play) in Week 14 against the Falcons and a would-be game-winner (with 46 seconds remaining) in Week 9 against Houston before the Texans marched 75 yards in 40 seconds for a 39-37 win.

By contrast, the other tight ends in the room — Payne Durham, Ko Kieft and David Wells — combined for eight receptions.

“It’s hard to believe he’s only a third-year guy coming up,” head coach Todd Bowles said.

“His durability has been outstanding and he’s had different coordinators each year, so his ability to adapt and learn ... it’s not like he’s had the same position coach or had the same offensive coordinator. So to learn different things and tweak his game to fit what we needed him to do is outstanding.”

Now, more tweaking and refining looms. Because Coen’s system is rife with three receivers and single-tight end looks, Otton, still only 25, could find himself periodically pulled off the line and matched up against linebackers and safeties. And in a scheme bent on establishing the run, blocking becomes an even greater prerequisite.

“I think it’s been really fun to watch the film of what the Rams (where Coen served as coordinator in 2022) have been doing,” Otton said.

“And even with (tight ends) Coach (Justin) Peelle, he worked with (Pro Bowler) Zach Ertz and (Eagles tight end) Dallas Goedert and stuff, so we watched them, and just the matchups you’re able to get in those one-by-three formations and just being able to exploit those at the tight end position.

“There’s a lot of technique things that go into that, just nuances of route-running. But when we can get those matchups, especially with the wide receivers we have, they’re going to demand attention and rightfully so. So, if at the tight end position we’re able to take advantage of those things, they can be really good for our offense.”

To that end, Otton says his primary individual goal in 2024 is reaching the Pro Bowl.

While his snap count is sure to decrease after the team drafted another University of Washington tight end (Devin Culp) in the seventh round, his productivity could remain on an upward trajectory. And he understands his effectiveness as an inline blocker must do the same. Logic suggests that with fewer snaps, Otton (6-foot-5, 247 pounds) will be fresher and sturdier as a blocker.

“He’s only going into his third year, and it takes some time to get (blocking) down,” Peelle said. “There’s some very good defensive players that you’re going to face, especially in this division. You’ve got to have your technique right, you’ve got to have some good strength, you’ve got to have an understanding of where you’ve got to be and when you’ve got to be there. And again, a lot of that just comes with experience, it comes with reps, which he’s gotten a lot of.

“And I thought he got better as the year went on (last season), but ... you’re always going to have room to improve.”

If Otton can continue progressing in that area, the team’s latest girl dad may emerge as the consummate handyman in Coen’s offense.

“I mean, obviously a lot of receiving stats go into (Pro Bowl selections), but I want to be a great blocker, too,” he said. “That doesn’t always get recognized by the media or anything like that, but just amongst our team, be noticed (as) someone they can count on to run behind or take care of guys on the backside of our runs.”

Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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