Free agency frenzy. Check.
NFL Draft. Check.
Undrafted free agents. Check.
Post-draft waiver wire acquisitions. Still in process.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently have 85 players on their roster, including the 13 undrafted free agents they signed right after the draft ended. That means they still have five roster spots to fill to make up their 90-man training camp roster, which would have to be trimmed to 53 by the first week of September.
I decided to break the roster down by position, listing each player on there and showing a possible depth chart going into the season. I’ll also mention whether the team needs to add another player to the group and give an example or two of free agents that could fit their needs. So let’s get into it. (Rookies are highlighted red)
Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin, Reid Sinnett (R)
Obviously, Brady is the clear starter with Gabbert as his backup. The question here will be if Griff sticks around as the third QB, or will they use that roster spot for another position? Griff is due $1.645M this season, which is more than the $1.19M Gabbert was re-signed for this off-season. The Bucs could use that $1.645M to sign some help at another position, or two so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him go eventually. As for the undrafted rookie Sinnett, he’s a camp body and a possible candidate for the 12-man practice squad.
PREDICTION: Brady and Gabbert to the 53
RUNNING BACKS (6)
Ronald Jones II, Ke’Shawn Vaughn (R), Dare Ogunbowale, TJ Logan, Aca’Cedric Ware, Ray Calais (R)
The running back position was addressed twice in the draft giving the Bucs a room full of young bucks (pun intended). All six backs on the Bucs roster are 26-years old, or younger with two being rookies. As of right now, Jones II appears as the clear cut starter with Vaughn being his relief and possible third-down back. So where does that leave Ogunbowale, the third-down back from last season? They used a seventh-round draft pick on Calais, who’s a speedy do-it-all type of back that can return kicks as well and was referred to by Bruce Arians as a “smaller version of David Johnson”. So where does that leave last year’s kick returner, Logan? There should be some good competition within this group to see who stays and who goes.
Despite having six backs on the team already, the Bucs could still benefit from adding an inexpensive, veteran free agent to this group. As I said before, these guys are all pretty young, so what would happen if Jones II gets injured and he’s out for an extended period? Do they roll with the rookie Vaughn? I don’t think that’s a smart choice. They need some experienced depth here, and there’s a bunch of decent backs still available in free agency. There are a few that stick out to me that should be within the Bucs price range and could be nice additions, but I like Carlos Hyde the most for what he could bring to this backfield. He’s a bigger back at 6’/230lbs with a bruising running style that the other Bucs backs don’t really offer. He played in all 16 games last season, finishing with 1,070 yards and 6 touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
PREDICTION: Jones II, Hyde, Vaughn, and Ogunbowale to the 53 with Calais going to practice squad
OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4)
Donovan Smith, Tristan Wirfs (R), Joe Haeg, Brad Seaton
Even though the Bucs used their 14th pick of the first round on their new right tackle Wirfs, they are still very thin at the offensive tackle position. They just signed Haeg in free agency prior to the draft and seem to be fond of what Seaton brings to the table. However, they can’t go into training camp with just four tackles. One interesting option would be to bring back longtime Buc Demar Dotson, who is still available as a free agent. If Dot is unwilling or unable to return, another option would be Josh Wells, who was also with the team last year and actually played a game at left tackle when Smith was out with an injury.
PREDICTION: Smith, Wirfs, Haeg, Seaton, and Dotson to the 53
Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa, Zack Bailey, Aaron Stinnie, John Molchon (R), Nick Leverett (R)
Both starting guard positions seem to be set with Marpet and Cappa. The question is, who will be the reserve guards on this roster? The Bucs are apparently pretty high on Bailey, who could potentially give Cappa a challenge in camp. But the other guys are relatively inexperienced and unproven. Molchon is an undrafted rookie who could come in and compete for a spot, but it might not be a bad idea to add a veteran to this group as well. They could bring back either Earl Watford or Mike Liedtke, who were both on the team last year and are still available as unrestricted free agents.
PREDICTION: Marpet, Cappa, Bailey, and Watford to the 53 with Molchon going to practice squad
Ryan Jensen, Anthony Fabiano, Zach Schackelford (R)
Jensen is a rock in the middle of that Bucs o-line and the Bucs like Fabiano’s versatility to play all across the line. But don’t count out the undrafted rookie Shackleford to push for a spot. He should at least end up as a candidate for the practice squad.
PREDICTION: Jensen and Fabiano to the 53 with Shackleford going to practice squad
TIGHT ENDS (7)
Rob Gronkowski, OJ Howard, Cam Brate, Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson, Jordan Leggett, Cody McElroy
Welcome to what might be the best tight end group in the NFL. Gronk and Howard are both dual threats as blockers and receivers. Brate is always a dangerous receiving threat, especially in the red zone. And Auclair might be the best inline blocker of the group. I don’t see the Bucs keeping more than four tight ends on their active roster, so the other three guys will be battling for the practice squad.
PREDICTION: Gronkowski, Howard, Brate, and Auclair to the 53 with Hudson going to practice squad
WIDE RECEIVER (13)
Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Tyler Johnson (R), Scotty Miller, Justin Watson, Bryant Mitchell, Spencer Schnell, John Franklin, Cyril Grayson, Jaydon Mickens, Josh Pearson (R), John Hurst (R), Travis Jonsen (R)
The most populated position group on the team with 13 players, but only five will likely make the active roster. Evans, Godwin, Johnson, and Miller are shoe-ins. The other nine guys will be fighting for that fifth spot and another spot or two on the practice squad.
PREDICTION: Evans, Godwin, Johnson, Miller, and Watson to the 53 with Mitchell and Pearson going to practice squad
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, Will Gholston, Khalil Davis (R), Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Pat O’Connor, Benning Potoa’e (R), Nasir Player (R)
With nine players in this group, they should have enough guys to enter camp with and have a decent competition. They will likely keep five or six of them on the active roster and another one or two on the practice squad. With Suh, Vea, Gholston, and Nunez-Roches fairly secure in their jobs, that leaves two spots left for Davis, Ledbetter, and O’Connor to fight over while Potoa’e and/or Player probably end up on the practice squad.
PREDICTION: Suh, Vea, Gholston, Nunez-Roches, O’Connor, and Davis to the 53 with Potoa’e going to practice squad
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (6)
Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett, Anthony Nelson, Khazin Daniels, Quinton Bell, Cam Gill (R)
This is the thinnest position on the team right now. They have two second-year players and a rookie behind Pierre-Paul, Barrett, and Nelson. It’s not an ideal situation. They would be wise to look at free agency for some veteran help. One guy that just became available after being waived by the Miami Dolphins is the Cowboys former first-round pick, Taco Charlton. I think he’s a perfect fit for what the Bucs need right now, so maybe they could help him revitalize his career as they did for Carl Nassib.
PREDICTION: Pierre-Paul, Barrett, Nelson, and Charlton to the 53 with Daniels going to practice squad
INSIDE LINEBACKER (7)
Lavonte David, Devin White, Kevin Minter, Jack Cichy, Noah Dawkins, Chapelle Russell (R), Michael Divinity (R)
A position group that was quite thin before the draft, became a full house after. They drafted Russell and signed Divinity as an undrafted free agent giving them seven at a position that they will likely only keep four players. David, White, Minter, and Cichy (if he can stay on the field) will likely be the four. But keep an eye on both Russell and Divinity in camp in case one pulls an upset and replaces Cichy.
PREDICTION: David, White, Minter, and Divinity to the 53 with Russell going to practice squad
Jordan Whitehead, Antoine Winfield Jr (R), Mike Edwards, Justin Evans, Andrew Adams, D’Cota Dixon, Deiondre’ Hall, Javon Hagan (R)
After the draft, the Bucs safety group that had some question marks surrounding it before was suddenly a position of strength for this team. They drafted Winfield Jr and signed undrafted Hagan adding them to a good young bunch of players. If Evans can come back healthy and return to form, he’ll be in the mix to start. Until then, I think Whitehead will be the starting strong with Winfield Jr as the free. Because of how Todd Bowles uses his safeties, they will likely keep five of these guys. This will be a fun position to watch during training camp.
PREDICTION: Whitehead, Winfield Jr, Edwards, Adams and Dixon to the 53 with Hall and Hagan going to the practice squad
Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ryan Smith, MJ Stewart, Mazzi Wilkins, Herb Miller, Parnell Motley (R)
The Bucs will probably keep five players out of this group as well. With eight guys in the mix, you’d think they had enough players to choose from. Davis, Dean, Murphy-Bunting, and Smith should all be safe, but that fifth spot is up for grabs between the other four guys. Don’t be surprised though if the Bucs bring a veteran in to compete with these youngsters. One guy that I think makes sense is Morris Claiborne. He’s experienced in Bowles’ system and had success in it, plus he should be a relatively inexpensive option.
PREDICTION: Davis, Dean, Murphy-Bunting, Smith, and Claiborne to the 53 with Wilkins and Motley going to practice squad
SPECIAL TEAMS (4)
Matt Gay, Elliott Fry, Bradley Pinion, Zach Triner
Jason Licht recently said that they would be bringing in some camp competition for kicker Matt Gay. They did that this week (kind of) by bringing in second-year free agent kicker Elliott Fry who was most recently on the Carolina Panthers practice squad. I’m not sure that he’ll provide much competition for Gay, but it might give him the little push he needs to do his job a little better.
PREDICTION: Gay, Pinion, and Triner to the 53
If this holds true, the 53-man depth chart and 12-man practice squad should look like this for Week 1 of the regular season:
WR- M. Evans, J. Watson
TE- R. Gronkowski, C. Brate
RT- T. Wirfs, J. Haeg, D. Dotson
RG- A. Cappa, E. Watford
C- R. Jensen, A. Fabiano
LG- A. Marpet, Z. Bailey
LT- D. Smith, B. Seaton
TE- OJ Howard, A. Auclair
WR- C. Godwin, T. Johnson, S. Miller
RB- R.Joness II, C.Hyde
QB- T. Brady, B. Gabbert
3DRB- K. Vaughn, D. Ogunbowale
CB- Carlton Davis, Ryan Smith
CB- Jamel Dean
OLB- J. Pierre-Paul, A. Nelson
DL- N. Suh, K. Davis
DT- V. Vea, R. Nunez-Roches
DL- W. Gholston, P. O’Connor
OLB- S. Barrett, T. Charlton
CB- S. Murphy-Bunting, M. Claiborne
SS- J. Whitehead, M. Edwards, D. Dixon
ILB- L. David, K. Minter
ILB- D. White, M. Divinity
FS- A. Windielf Jr., A. Adams
LS- Z. Triner P- B. Pinion K- M. Gay
12-MAN PRACTICE SQUAD
RB- Ray Calais
G- John Molchon
TE- Tanner Hudson
WR- Bryant Mitchell
WR- Josh Pearson
DL- Benning Potoa’e
OLB- Khazin Daniels
ILB- Chapelle Russell
DB- Deiondre’ Hall
S- Javon Hagan
CB- Mazzi Wilkins
CB- Parnell Motley
So that’s my way too early prediction for the Bucs 53-man active roster and their 12-man practice squad roster heading into Week 1 of the regular season. What did you think? Anyone I should’ve kept? Anyone I should’ve cut? Any other free agents that I should’ve brought in for camp? Let me know what you think. It doesn’t look like NFL teams will be having OTA’s or mini-camps this year (thanks China!), so the team might hit the ground running and head straight into training camp. And I can’t wait until that happens!