Alrighty Buc Nation, it’s almost that time!
This 2020 off-season has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for Bucs fans.
Jameis Winston is out.
Tom Brady is in.
Rob Gronkowski is coming too.
Then the Chinese Virus hit and halted everything.
Then we had the “virtual draft” where the Buccaneers did a great job filling the few holes in their roster.
Then the “second wave” of the flu hit and put the season in jeopardy.
And now, it looks as though the Bucs will be playing football this year (so far) even if it may only be in front of 25% capacity at Raymond James.
Thursday, August 6 was the deadline for players to let their teams know if they were opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. When that time came and went, 67 players throughout the league had turned in their notices. The Chargers, Rams, Falcons, and Steelers were the only teams to NOT have any players opt-out. As far as the Bucs are concerned, reserve offensive tackle Brad Seaton was their only player, even though there was some speculation that starting left tackle Donovan Smith was considering it.
Now that all that drama is over, we can take a look at the 80 players remaining on the Bucs current roster and try to figure out who they might be keeping for the 53-man roster to start the season. I’ll also try to predict the practice squad players, which was already going from 10 to 12 players according to the new CBA agreement but will now consist of 16 players, including 6 veterans, no matter the years of experience. So with that being said, let’s get it on!
QUARTERBACKS (2 active, 1 practice)
Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin, Reid Sinnett (R)
With Jameis Winston now in New Orleans, the Bucs turned to a Super Bowl-winning veteran to replace him in Tom Brady. If you’re like me, you’re probably still pinching yourself every time you see TB12 throwing to Mike Evans or Chris Godwin. I still can’t believe that he’s in Tampa. But he is, and his addition immediately turns the Bucs into contenders.
Blaine Gabbert returns as the experienced backup QB of the group, while Ryan Griffin is back for yet another year in Tampa. There’s a chance the Bucs keep three quarterbacks on the active roster, but with the new practice squad rule, I don’t think it’s necessary. This year, teams are allowed to keep 16 players on their scout team, with six of them having no limit on years of experience. That’s good news for Griffin and the Bucs.
PREDICTION: Brady and Gabbert to the active roster with Griffin joining the practice squad
RUNNING BACKS (4 active, 1 practice)
Ronald Jones II, LeSean McCoy, Ke’ Shawn Vaughn (R), Dare Ogunbowale, Raymond Calais (R), TJ Logan
With the departure of Peyton Barber in free agency, the Bucs running back group was in need of some bulking up. What did Jason Licht do about that? Well, he drafted not one but two backs in Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Raymond Calais, AND he added veteran LeSean McCoy in free agency. A position that had some question marks after last season is now looking pretty solid and very promising for the future.
Coach Arians has stated that Ronald Jones II will be the workhorse of their offense this season, so rookie Ke’ Shawn Vaughn, veteran LeSean McCoy, and Dare Ogunbowale will be battling it out for that third-down back role. Raymond Calais could be in the mix there as well, but he’ll likely end up on the practice squad. The odd man out could be TJ Logan. There may not be room on this roster for a running back who only returns kicks, and his limited amount of offensive snaps last season could be his downfall. (***UPDATE*** TJ Logan suffered a season-ending injury during camp last week)
PREDICTION: Jones II, McCoy, Vaughn, and Ogunbowale to the active roster with Calais going to practice squad
WIDE RECEIVERS (6 active, 2 practice)
Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson (R), John Franklin, Justin Watson, Bryant Mitchell, Cyril Grayson, Jaydon Mickens, John Hurst (R), Josh Pearson (R)
This is one of the best (if not the best) WR corps in the entire league. Evans and Godwin might be the best duo in the NFL. Watson, Mitchell, and Franklin have all shown potential. And Miller could end up being the newest version of Brady’s Welker/Edelman type go-to-guy. Add rookie Tyler Johnson to that mix, and we may have the makings of something special here, especially with the GOAT passing them the football. In fact, Mike Evans recently stated that he feels this Buccaneers offense could end up being one of the “all-time greats”.
According to PewterReport.com, the front-runner for that third WR spot in training camp might be Justin Watson, who has been impressive so far. But with a couple of weeks until their first game, anything can happen. It wouldn’t surprise me if they only keep five receivers and use that roster spot somewhere else, but here I have them keeping six guys.
PREDICTION: Evans, Godwin, Johnson, Miller, Watson, and Mitchell to the active roster, with Franklin and Pearson going to practice squad
TIGHT ENDS (4 active, 2 practice)
Rob Gronkowski, OJ Howard, Cam Brate, Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson, Cody McElroy
Gronk!!! As if the Buccaneers didn’t already have enough talent at the tight end position, they lured Rob Gronkowski out of his “retirement” and teamed him up with Howard and Brate. It was a strong group before, but now it’s elite.
Those top three guys are impressive, but the other three aren’t bad either. Antony Auclair will likely be the fourth TE on the roster, but Tanner Hudson and Cody McElroy have had their moments as well. I can see the Bucs keeping all six of these guys. That’s how talented this group is.
PREDICTION: Gronkowski, Howard, Brate, and Auclair to the active roster, with Hudson and McElroy going to practice squad
OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4 active)
Donovan Smith, Tristan Wirfs (R), Joe Haeg, Josh Wells
This group was weakened just a bit losing Demar Dotson in free agency and with Brad Seaton opting out this season due to COVID-19, but Donovan Smith is still here. The Bucs also added Joe Haeg in free agency AND drafted Tristan Wirfs in the first round in April.
Even though they used that first-round pick on Wirfs, it’s not a given that he takes over the starting position at right tackle. Joe Haeg could be in the running there as well. It’s definitely a battle to keep your eye on during camp. Even though they only have four tackles listed on the roster, they do have guards like Zack Bailey, Aaron Stinnie, and Alex Cappa, who have experience playing on the outside.
PREDICTION: All four make the active roster
GUARDS (3 active, 1 practice)
Ali Marpet, Alex Cappa, Zack Bailey, Nick Leverett (R), Aaron Stinnie, John Molchon (R)
The interior offensive line was an area of strength for the Bucs last season. Ali Marpet had a Pro Bowl-caliber year, and Alex Cappa improved with each week. These two will be even better this season.
The reserve guards behind Marpet and Cappa is where there may be question marks. They are all young with minimal experience, so it will be interesting to see what the Bucs do here for depth.
PREDICTION: Marpet, Cappa, and Stinnie to the active roster with Bailey joining the practice squad
CENTERS (2 active, 1 practice)
Ryan Jensen, Anthony Fabiano, Zach Shackelford (R)
Ryan Jensen is one of my favorite players on the team. I love the attitude and tenacity with which he plays the game. He also had a Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2019, and I expect the same for him this year. The question here will be, do the Bucs carry a backup center on their 53-man roster or not?
The Bucs seem to be high on Anthony Fabiano, so he will likely be their #2 center. But don’t count out rookie Zach Shackelford, who was a highly sought after undrafted free agent.
PREDICTION: Jensen and Fabiano to the active roster with Shackelford going to the practice squad
DEFENSIVE LINE (6 active, 1 practice)
Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Will Gholston, Pat O’Connor, Raheem Nunez-Roches, Kyle Love, Khalil Davis (R), Benning Potoa’e (R)
The interior of the Bucs defensive line was stout last season, finishing as one of the top run defenses in the NFL. Thanks to Jason Licht’s work re-signing their free agents this off-season, that trend should continue. The core of last year’s group is still there, plus they added rookie Khalil Davis in the draft. Davis could impress enough in camp to make the 53, but he might have to beat out one of the guys still here from last year’s unit. That might prove too difficult for him to do with so little time in this training camp. They also recently added free agent and former Carolina Panther Kyle Love. He could be in a battle for that final spot in this group with Pat O’Connor, and I think his experience wins out in the end.
PREDICTION: Suh, Vea, Gholston, Nunez-Roches, Ledbetter, and Love to active with O’Connor and Davis going to the practice squad
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5 active, 2 practice)
Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett, Anthony Nelson, Quinton Bell, Khazin Daniels, Michael Divinity (R), Cam Gill (R), Chapelle Russell (R)
Again, Licht’s off-season work held this group of pass rushers together by re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul and slapping Shaq Barrett with the franchise tag. He also added three promising prospects from the 2020 draft class in Michael Divinity, Cam Gill, and Chapelle Russell. This bunch, that includes the sack leader from last season, should be primed to put even more quarterbacks on their backs this year. I’m keeping five OLB’s on my active roster here, but this could be one position that the Bucs could use that extra wide receiver spot on. I’ve got Khazin Daniels and Chapelle Russell going to the practice squad here, but don’t be surprised to see one or both of them make the active roster.
PREDICTION: Pierre-Paul, Barrett, Nelson, Divinity, and Bell to the active roster with Daniels and Russell going to the practice squad
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4 active, 1 practice)
Lavonte David, Devin White, Kevin Minter, Jack Cichy, Noah Dawkins
The most dangerous linebacker duo in the NFL returns in 2020 and should wreak havoc on opposing offenses once again. The hope for this group is that Jack Cichy can stay healthy and finally reach his potential. Kevin Minter is a solid reserve and a good special teamer. And Noah Dawkins could be in the mix as well. This is another position that they could use that extra-wide receiver spot on to keep five instead of four. And it wouldn’t surprise me if they added another player from free agency to this unit before the season starts.
PREDICTION: David, White, Minter, and Cichy to the active roster with Dawkins going to practice squad
CORNERBACKS (5 active, 2 practice)
Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ryan Smith, Mazzi Wilkins, Parnell Motley (R), Herb Miller
This promising young group should have Bucs fans excited for the future. Coach Bruce Arians said that he thinks Carlton Davis is already a top ten corner in this league. Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting aren’t far behind either. The Bucs also added another potential secondary star after the draft with Parnell Motley, and he could compete for a spot on the 53 with Mazzi Wilkins and Herb Miller. Ryan Smith is a special team’s stud so, he will likely keep his spot on the team, so those other three guys will be competing for the final one or two spots.
PREDICTION: Davis, Dean, Murphy-Bunting, Smith, and Wilkins to the active roster with Motley and Miller going to the practice squad
SAFETIES (5 active, 1 practice)
Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, Andrew Adams, Antoine Winfield Jr (R), D’Cota Dixon, Javon Hagan (R)
The back end of the secondary is just as exciting as the front. Jason Licht has put together a talented group of young safeties over the last few years, including a rookie from this year’s draft in Antoine Winfield Jr. I think he’s going to beat out Mike Edwards for the starting free safety spot, which would pair him up with strong safety Jordan Whitehead. Andrew Adams is the lone veteran of this young group. D’Cota Dixon was impressing the coaching staff as a rookie last year before his injury, so he will likely end up as the fifth safety. But don’t count out rookie Javon Hagan, who could make a challenge.
PREDICTION: Whitehead, Edwards, Adams, Winfield Jr, and Dixon to the active roster with Hagan going to the practice squad
SPECIAL TEAMS (3 active)
Matt Gay, Bradley Pinion, Zach Triner, Elliott Fry
This is a no-brainer. The Bucs brought in another kicker for training camp, but Matt Gay will be the kicker heading into the 2020 season. Hopefully, he can improve his accuracy in the south endzone of Raymond James, and keep the job. The biggest question mark for special teams might be, who’s going to be returning kicks, since TJ Logan is out for the season?
PREDICTION: Gay, Pinion, and Triner to the active roster
2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 53-man Roster
QB – Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert
RB – Ronald Jones II, LeSean McCoy, Ke’ Shawn Vaughn (R), Dare Ogunbowale
WR – Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson (R), Justin Watson, Bryant Mitchell
TE – Rob Gronkowski, OJ Howard, Cam Brate, Antony Auclair
OL- Ryan Jensen, Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith, Alex Cappa, Tristan Wirfs (R), Anthony Fabiano, Joe Haeg, Josh Wells, Aaron Stinnie
DL- Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, Will Gholston, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Kyle Love
OLB – Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett, Anthony Nelson, Quinton Bell, Michael Divinity (R)
ILB – Lavonte David, Devin White, Jack Cichy, Kevin Minter
CB – Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ryan Smith, Mazzi Wilkins
S – Jordan Whitehead, Antoine Winfield Jr, Mike Edwards, Andrew Adams, D’Cota Dixon
ST – Matt Gay, Bradley Pinion, Zach Triner
2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-man Practice Squad
QB – Ryan Griffin
RB – Raymond Calais (R)
WR – John Franklin, Josh Pearson (R)
TE – Tanner Hudson, Cody McElroy
OL- Zack Bailey, Zach Shackelford (R)
DL- Pat O’Connor, Khalil Davis (R)
OLB – Khazin Daniels, Chapelle Russell (R)
ILB – Noah Dawkins
CB- Parnell Motley (R), Herb Miller
S – Javon Hagan (R)
Isn’t this just the Tampa Bay Bucs luck. They land Tom Brady AND Rob Gronkowski. The team is finally primed for a legitimate Super Bowl run after nearly 20 years. And that Super Bowl is being IN TAMPA, and our Bucs could be the first team to host a Super Bowl. And most fans won’t be able to witness any of it first hand.
Sad, but true.
Either way, Bucs fans should just kick back in their bed, on their couch, or in the pool, and enjoy ourselves. This team is on the verge of something. I feel it. Most of us say that same thing each and every season, but THIS season is different.
THIS season, we have Brady and Gronk.
Coach Arians even said that in all the years that he’s been in professional football, he’s never seen this much talent on the field at one time. It’s not just about Brady and Gronk. It’s about Evans and Godwin. It’s about RoJo and Shady McCoy. It’s about OJ and Cam. It’s about Suh and Vita. It’s about JPP and Shaq. It’s about LD and D-White. It’s about Davis Island and SMB. And it’s about Whitehead and Winfield. This Buccaneers team has dynamic duos at every position. It’s quite impressive when you think about it.
Everyone is talking about the potential of this offense. But, people are forgetting that this defense was one of the top-ranked defenses in the league over the second half of the season. Now, that defense is going into its second season in Todd Bowles scheme. That means they’ll know it that much better, which allows them to play that much faster. That d-line is starting this season healthy and together, which means they’ll be more in sync. Those young cornerbacks are another year older, which means they’ll be more comfortable. That defense could be scary good. Pairing it with a possible record-setting offense could and should be terrifying to opposing teams. And it could and should be very entertaining for Tampa Bay fans.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!