The preseason is over, which means it’s time for teams to whittle their rosters down from 90 players to the final 53 players. The Bucs did just that on Saturday releasing their trimmed down team to the public. Most of the cut downs were as expected, but there were a few surprises and some other things that jumped out at me. So I decided to break down this final roster to get an idea of what Jason Licht and the Bucs might have been thinking when they made some of these choices and to see what I got right or wrong in my 53-man roster predictions. I’ll also take a look at the 11-man practice squad to see who I got right in that prediction as well.
No real surprises here with them keeping just two of them in Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Griffin. With Jameis Winston’s suspension for the first three weeks, he doesn’t count towards a roster spot so this was the logical thing to do here.
My Prediction: Right (2 out of 2)
RUNNING BACKS (4)
The only question mark in this group really was whether the Bucs would keep rookie Shaun Wilson or the recently signed free agent Dare Ogunbowale. Wilson’s versatility apparently impressed the Bucs enough to make them choose him. He joins Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Ronald Jones in the backfield.
My Prediction: Right (4 out of 4)
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
This position was really deep and the Bucs probably had at least eight guys that could’ve made this team. The first four WR spots were already decided with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries. The fifth spot appeared to be filled by fifth round draft pick Justin Watson. The big debate here was would the team keep six receivers and if so who would that guy be? There were a few candidates in Bernard Reedy, Bobo Wilson and Freddie Martino who had all had productive moments in preseason. This decision came down to one thing…practice squad eligibility. Wilson had it. Martino didn’t. The only way to keep both of them was to keep Freddie on the team and hope that Bobo would end up back on the practice squad for the second straight year. So that was the decision.
My Prediction: Right (6 out of 6)
TIGHT ENDS (4)
This position group might have been the easiest roster decision that Jason Licht had to make this season. I don’t think there was ever a doubt that it would be OJ Howard, Cam Brate, Alan Cross and Antony Auclair all along. Even though the Bucs brought in a number of undrafted rookies to compete, none of them ever really had a chance to unseat one of those guys.
My Prediction: Right (4 out of 4)
OFFENSIVE LINE (10)
Here’s where the surprises start. Due to injuries, the Bucs decided to keep ten offensive linemen instead of nine like I predicted. I was right about the nine guys that I predicted to make the roster which were Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Caleb Benenoch, Demar Dotson, Alex Cappa, Evan Smith, Leonard Wester and Mike Liedtke. However the tenth lineman, Adam Gettis, was one of the guys that I said may have helped himself in that final preseason game on Thursday night in my last article which I was right about.
My Prediction: Wrong, but kinda right (9 out of 10)
DEFENSIVE LINE (10)
Here again, the Bucs elected to go with ten players instead of the nine that I predicted. And again, I was right about those nine. And again, the tenth player was a guy I said may have helped himself in that final preseason game in my last article. Jerel Worthy joins Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Gerald McCoy, Beau Allen, Vita Vea, Mitch Unrein, Will Gholston, Noah Spence and Will Clarke in what everyone in Bucs Nation hopes will be a dominant defensive front this year. (UPDATE: Mitch Unrein has since been placed on IR for his concussion.) (UPDATE: Bucs have claimed DE Carl Nassib off waivers and released DE Will Clarke.)
My Prediction: Wrong, but kinda right (9 out of 10)
This group is where injuries played a big part in the decision making process. Kendell Beckwith has been injured all of training camp and ended up on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list which means the earliest that he would be back is six weeks. Riley Bullough and Devante Bond were both waived injured and if they pass through waivers could be placed on Injured Reserve (IR). These circumstances led the Bucs to make the decision to keep five LB’s instead of six. I made my prediction before Bullough’s injury which had I known would’ve effected my choice of keeping him and sending rookie Jack Cichy to practice squad. Instead, the rook joins Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Adarius Taylor and Cameron Lynch to complete the LB corps.
My Prediction: Wrong (4 out of 5)
So here’s is where I really got it wrong. I predicted for the Bucs to keep six corners, but it was that sixth CB that I missed on. I think most people expected Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves and the two rookies Carlton Davis and MJ Stewart to make it. I thought that there might be a battle for a spot between Ryan Smith and Javien Elliott in which I chose Smith as the winner. But I assumed that the sixth and final CB spot would be saved for special teams superstar Josh Robinson. Boy, was I wrong. The 27 year-old Robinson may have fallen victim to his own success. He’s so good at his job that the Bucs made him the highest paid gunner in 2017 when they signed him to a 2 yr/$6.5 million contract. I don’t know if money had anything to do with the team’s decision, but you have to assume that it did at least a little bit. Replacing him in that sixth CB spot is recently signed free agent and former New Orleans Saint cornerback De’Vante Harris. He’s two years younger than Robinson and much cheaper. I just hope that he can fill the void on special teams now.
My Prediction: Wrong (5 out of 6)
And here’s another one that I got wrong, but still got kind of right. I picked Chris Conte, Justin Evans and Jordan Whitehead correctly. However, in what might be the biggest surprise to Bucs fans, Keith Tandy was released. The 29 year-old veteran had been a key reserve player for the last six seasons after being selected by the Bucs in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He is replaced by 25 year-old Isaiah Johnson who spent most of the 2017 season on the Bucs practice squad. He’s another guy that I thought helped himself on Thursday night. Apparently he did enough in that game and throughout camp to force the team to choose him over a seasoned vet like Tandy.
My Prediction: Wrong, but kinda right (3 out of 4)
SPECIAL TEAMS (2)
Yes, that says two instead of three. Normally the special teams group consists of the kicker, the punter and the longsnapper. After having rookie Drew Ferris in camp from the beginning and bringing in Garrison Sanborn for that final preseason game, the Bucs decided not to keep either guy. I’m sure this isn’t a final decision. The team can’t go without an actual longsnapper, even though both Alan Cross and Adarius Taylor have experience doing it. However, they do keep Chandler Catanzaro and Bryan Anger around. (UPDATE: With Mitch Unrein going to IR, the Bucs had an open spot and filled it with veteran longsnapper Garrison Sanborn.)
My Prediction: Right (3 out of 3)
PRACTICE SQUAD (11)
The Bucs once again have an 11-man practice squad as LB Eric Nzeocha’s position is exempt as part of the NFL Europe exchange program. Of those 11 players, I actually predicted 8 of them correctly. One player, DE Demone Harris, was not one of my guesses. The other two players, DT Jeremiah Ledbetter and LB Azeem Victor, are both newcomers from other teams. The four of them join RB Dare Ogunbowale, WR Bobo Wilson, TE Tanner Hudson, OT Cole Boozer, DE Pat O’Connor, CB Javien Elliott and S Godwin Igwebuike.
My Prediction: Wrong (8 out of 11)
I didn’t think that I did too bad on both rosters. I only missed on 3 of the 11 practice squad players and just 5 of the 53 active roster players. Of course things could change over the next few days. There was roughly 1,150 players that hit the streets this weekend and are looking for a new home and a new opportunity to fulfill their NFL dreams. The Bucs didn’t claim anyone during the waiver period after cut downs, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be getting any new faces around One Buc. That is still a possibility.
Is there anyone that another team released that you wish the Bucs would sign? The only player that I’ve heard of getting cut so far that I wouldn’t mind seeing in Tampa is former Browns DE and financial advisor Carl Nassib. I think he would make an interesting addition to this d-line rotation. (UPDATE: The Bucs just claimed him off of waivers.)
Were there any surprises for you on the final 53-man roster, whether it was someone they cut or kept? Someone you wished they had cut or kept? What was the most interesting part about the Bucs final roster to you? No longsnapper? Only 5 linebackers? Keeping 10 offensive linemen? Keeping 10 defensive linemen? Josh Robinson cut? Isaiah Johnson over Keith Tandy? Freddie Martino over Bobo Wilson? What are your thoughts on the Buccaneers 2018 final 53-man roster? Let me hear from you, Bucs Nation. Bring on the Saints!
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!