WOOHOO, the preseason’s done! Now that the practice games are over and the REAL football is about to start, the Bucs (and every other NFL team for that matter) are about to cut their roster down from 90 to 53 players. Those cuts have to be made by 4pm tomorrow so the Bucs coaching staff will have a very difficult next 24 hours. Some hard decisions will have to be made that will bash the hopes and dreams and possibly even end the NFL careers of 37 men who have been working towards this their entire lives. It sucks…but it’s the necessary evil of the business side of the NFL. After attending about half of the training camp practices and watching all four preseason games, I have compiled my own 53-man roster as well as an 11-man practice squad. Of course, this is MY version and it has not been influenced at all by anyone in the Buccaneers organization. So, here we go…
53-man Active Roster (not including Injured Reserve or suspended players)
QB (2)- Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RB (4)- Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, Peyton Barber, Jeremy McNichols
TE (4)- Cam Brate, O.J. Howard, Alan Cross, Antony Auclair
WR (5)- Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin, Josh Huff
OL (9)- Donovan Smith, Kevin Pamphile, Ali Marpet, J.R. Sweezy, Demar Dotson, Caleb Benenoch, Joe Hawley, Evan Smith, Leonard Wester
DL (10)- Robert Ayers, Will Gholston, Gerald McCoy, Chris Baker, Clinton McDonald, Noah Spence, Jacquies Smith, Channing Ward, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, Ryan Russell
LB (6)- Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David, Kendell Beckwith, Adarius Glanton, Cam Lynch, Riley Bullough
DB (6)- Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves, Ryan Smith, Robert McClain, Javien Elliott, Josh Robinson
S (4)- Chris Conte, Keith Tandy, Justin Evans, J.J. Wilcox
ST (3)- Nick Folk, Bryan Anger, Andrew DePaola
IR: QB- Ryan Griffin, DT- DaVonte Lambert, LB- Devante Bond, DE- Justin Trattou ; Suspension: RB- Doug Martin
11-man Practice Squad (including the additional player from Europe)
QB- Sefo Liufau
RB- Russell Hansbrough
WR- Bernard Reedy, BoBo Wilson
TE- Tevin Westbrook
OL- Mike Liedtke
DE- Mehdi Abdesmad
LB- Jeff Knox, Eric Nzeocha
DB- Jonathan Moxey, Isaiah Johnson
TE Luke Stocker- He has spent 6 seasons in Tampa Bay, but only one of which was a full 16-game season. He has primarily been a blocking back who occasionally catches passes in the Bucs offense. However, with the emergence of Alan Cross as a primary blocking back and the potential of Antony Auclair as a dual threat tight end, Stocker becomes expendable.
WR Freddie Martino- He spent last season with the Buccaneers, both on the practice squad and the active roster. As much as they seem to like the young receiver, there’s only so many spots on this team and I don’t feel as though he’s done enough to occupy one of those spots.
WR Donteea Dye- He has spent the last two seasons in Tampa Bay, primarily on the practice squad. I’m sure that his appearance on Hard Knocks has some fans pulling for him, but between his injury and lack of opportunities, I just don’t see how he could’ve earned a spot on the roster.
DE George Johnson- He’s spent the last two seasons with the Bucs, but missed all of 2016 with an injury and only saw action in 11 games the previous year. The defensive line is full of young talent and he just didn’t WOW enough to stay around.
DT Sealver Siliga- He spent 2016 with the Bucs and played well. However, the Bucs were his fourth team in his short six year NFL career. Unfortunately for him, the Bucs drafted Stevie Tu’ikolovatu in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft. “Stevie T” is a similar player to Siliga with more athleticism and speed, so if the Bucs are forced to decide between the two I think they’ll go with the rookie.
Backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick looked pretty bad this preseason. In my opinion, Ryan Griffin was beating him out for that backup role before he was injured in the Bengals game. Once Griffin is healthy and eligible to come off of I.R. after Week 6, I think the Bucs could release Fitzpatrick and keep Griffin as their backup.
Once RB Doug Martin returns from his suspension, either second year RB Peyton Barber or rookie Jeremy McNichols will be demoted to the practice squad. Their performances over the first three weeks of the season should be able to determine which one of them it will be.
LB Devante Bond is a bit of an enigma. He has talent and he was having a pretty good camp until he injured his knee. I haven’t been able to determine how significant the injury is or how long he’ll be out, but his fate could go either way. The Bucs have enough talent and depth to release him or they could place him on I.R. and bring him back after Week 6. I think they’ll designate him to the I.R. instead of releasing him completely.
LB Riley Bullough has become a Hard Knocks rock star over the past few weeks which has cast a spotlight on him. I think that he makes the active roster for the simple fact that the Bucs don’t want to risk losing him to waivers should they attempt to designate him to the practice squad.
RB Jeremy McNichols has had a less than stellar training camp making typical rookie mental mistakes. Despite those mental mistakes, his physical talents are undeniable. There has been some debate on whether he’ll make the team or not, but I think his dual threat capabilities are enough to keep the Bucs interested at least until Doug Martin returns from his suspension.
TE Antony Auclair is still rough around the edges, but his skills as a dual threat tight end are unquestionable. Even though he’s got a ways to go, the Bucs seem to like him a lot and I don’t think they’ll risk trying to send him to the practice squad. I see him making the 53-man roster and the Bucs parting ways with the aging and always injured Luke Stocker.
So, there it is. My predictions for the 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster moves that could happen within the next 24 hours. We’ll know by 4pm on Saturday how much of this I actually got right. There will inevitably be tweaks here and there depending on who the Bucs pick up from other teams and which of their potential practice squad players are snagged off of waivers. But based on their current roster, this is who I see them going to war with on Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins. Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!