December 6, 2022

Bucs Life

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2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Roster Preview

16 min read

via buccaneers.com

IT’S ALMOST TIME FOR TRAINING CAMP!

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off of a successful 13-4 season that ended in disappointment with a gut-wrenching home loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion LA Rams. It was an agonizing way to end their championship run, but it’s over now and it’s time to move on to a new season.

The Bucs have had a wild offseason. One of the craziest and busiest that I can remember. Now that the first wave of free agency is over and the NFL Draft is complete, it’s time for teams to fill out their 90-man roster for training camp. They’ve brought in over a dozen undrafted free agents so far and will likely be adding a few more veterans before camp starts. According to Spotrac.com, they have about $10.5 million in cap space, while OverTheCap.com has them at $10.4 million. Either way, they have a little more money they can spend in free agency and they still have a few ways to create some more if needed.

The Buccaneers have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL, but there’s always room to add more talent. They said they wanted to add more speed everywhere, which would help improve special teams, and it appears they are trying to get younger. They decided not to re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Steve McLendon and Kevin Minter. All four players are over 30 years old and are being replaced by younger players.

In my opinion, there are only two position groups that the Bucs currently have enough depth and competition for camp. One is at wide receiver. The other is the offensive line. Every other position needs some help, whether it’s from one of the undrafted rookies stepping up or a veteran free agent addition stepping in. So let’s break down each position with what they have and what they need, along with my suggestion for which free agent they could bring in to help.

QUARTERBACK (4)

Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask, Ryan Griffin

Same group, different season. The Bucs were able to keep their QB room intact with the “un-retiring” of Tom Brady. Now they head into 2022 with the same four that they had last season and Trask gets at least one more year to learn from the “GOAT“. However, I wonder about the fate of Ryan Griffin this year. This roster is so talented and the spots are so valuable that I’m not sure the Bucs would carry a fourth quarterback this season, especially if Kyle Trask is developing the way they expected. After 7 seasons, Griff could be on his way out the door if they need that extra roster spot for depth at another position.

POSSIBLE FREE-AGENT ADDITION

None

RUNNING BACK (5)

Leonard Fournette, Giovanni Bernard, Rachaad White (R), Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Kenjon Barner

The Bucs lost Ronald Jones II in free agency, but I don’t think they had plans of bringing him back anyway. He was a liability in pass protection and wasn’t a dependable receiver out of the backfield, which are two HUGE attributes for a running back in this offense. So what did the Bucs do? They made it a priority to get Arizona State’s Rachaad White, ProFootballFocus.com’s highest-rated pass-catching back in the draft. However, he’s not just a third-down back. White is big enough and powerful enough to run between the tackles and he’s fast and athletic enough to get outside. He’s an every-down back and has already said that he’s coming into camp gunning for the starting job. In fact, according to Mockdraftable.com, based on his size and athleticism White’s measurements and Combine workout was 94.2% similar to the 49ers Deebo Samuel. That alone should excite Bucs fans. They had already re-signed Fournette to a 3-yr deal and re-signed Bernard to another 1-yr deal, so the room stays the same as it was in 2021 except Jones is out and White is in. This should give the Bucs more flexibility in their playcalling and allow them to give “Playoff Lenny” a little more rest during the regular season.

POSSIBLE FREE-AGENT ADDITION

David Johnson

Hear me out on this one. He’s only 30 years old and I think there’s still plenty of tread left on his tires. He’s also a terrific pass-catching and pass-blocking back that has experience being a primary back, or at least could contribute significantly in a committee situation. He also had his most productive seasons in Arizona under Bruce Arians and in this offense where he rushed for 2,179 yards and 23 touchdowns while catching 130 balls for 1,379 yards and 7 touchdowns in 32 games. The Bucs could use a dependable veteran with experience who can handle being the every-down back just in case Fournette gets hurt. I’m not sure Bernard or Vaughn or the rookie White can do that.

TIGHT END (7)

Cam Brate, Cade Otton (R), Ko Kieft (R), Darren Fells, Cody McElroy, Ben Beise (UFAR)

I’m still not convinced that Gronk is done, so I won’t completely close that door. However, after losing OJ Howard to the Bills in free agency and now Rob Gronkowski’sretirement“, the Bucs need to add to this tight end group badly before camp begins. They did help that in the draft by grabbing two of them in Cade Otton and Ko Kieft. Both of these guys are excellent blockers and should help the Bucs’ offense and special teams immediately. Otton could be their TE of the future, while Kieft is a nasty mauler who just enjoys punishing defenders and burying them under the turf. Still, with the loss of Gronk, the Bucs could stand to add some veteran experience to this group.

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT ADDITION

Jimmy Graham

I know, I used too hate him to when he was with the Saints. However, he’s been away from New Orleans for 7 seasons so the stank should’ve worn off by now and he’s still a free agent. In fact, even at 35 years old, he’s the top free agent tight end left on the market. Has he had a few down years? Sure, but look where he’s been. Seattle. Chicago. Not exactly offenses where tight ends thrive. At 6’7″/265lbs, he’s about the same size as Gronk and would give the Bucs some much needed veteran experience in that room. He also has managed to stay relatively healthy for most of his career missing just 8 games in 12 seasons. If the Bucs are truly in “Super Bowl or Bust” mode, then this signing makes perfect sense. He still has a little something in the tank and he could thrive in Arians offense.

WIDE RECEIVER (15)

Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage, Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, Cyril Grayson, John Brown, Breshad Perriman, Jaelon Darden, Vyncint Smith, Jerreth Sterns (UFAR), Deven Thompkins (UFAR), Kaylon Geiger (UFAR), Kameron Brown (UFAR)

This is by far the deepest room on the team with at least 14 players battling for what will likely be six roster spots. I would say the top four WR slots are filled with Evans, Godwin, Gage, and Perriman. The other ten guys will be fighting it out for those last two. It’ll be interesting to see who steps up in camp and who doesn’t rise to the occasion. Miller, Johnson, Grayson, and Darden should be the front runners, but anything can happen. In fact, Todd Bowles was raving about undrafted rookie Deven Thompkins after mandatory mini-camp and John Brown is a vet with some experience in Arians offense. Keep an eye on those two guys as well.

CAMP BATTLE TO WATCH

Jaelon Darden vs. Deven Thompkins

Both of these guys impressed the coaches during mini-camp. Both are small compared to most of the other Buccaneer receivers, with Darden being 5’8″/175 lbs. and Thompkins being 5’7″/155 lbs. Both are speedy and both have experience as returners. Whoever wins that final WR spot on the roster will need to be able to contribute on special teams as the returner, so it’s looking like these two could be the frontrunners right now.

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT ADDITION

Dede Westbrook

I’ve seen a bunch of Bucs fans clamoring for Julio Jones and there’s even a rumor that Tom Brady has tried luring him to Tampa. Unfortunately, I think he’ll end up in Indy with his former Atlanta teammate and quarterback Matt Ryan. I dont think the Bucs will bring in another receiver, but if they do, another guy that I think would be an interesting fit is former Jaguar and former Viking Dede Westbrook. At 6’/180lbs, he’s a speedy receiver that didn’t have much success in Minnesota last season. However, from 2018-19 in Jacksonville, he played 31 games, had 132 receptions for 1,370 yards, 8 touchdowns, and averaged over 10 yards per catch. He’s also got experience returning kicks and punts. I don’t expect the Bucs to add another receiver before camp, but if they want to then Westbrook could be an interesting option.

OFFENSIVE LINE (17)

Donovan Smith, Luke Goedeke (R), Ryan Jensen, Shaq Mason, Tristan Wirfs, Aaron Stinnie, Josh Wells, Nick Leverett, Robert Hainsey, Fred Johnson, Sadarius Hutcherson, John Molchon, Jonathan Hubbard, Keegan Cryder (R), Brandon Walton, Dylan Cook (UFAR), Curtis Blackwell (UFAR)

One of the best offensive lines in football last year has had quite the rollercoaster of an offseason. First, they lost their quarterback Tom Brady to retirement. Then they lost their starting right guard Alex Cappa to the Bengals in free agency. Then they lost their starting left guard Ali Marpet to retirement. Then Brady “unretires“. Then they re-signed their starting center Ryan Jensen. Then they traded with the Patriots for Shaq Mason. And now they got Luke Goedeke in the second round of the draft. This line was really good last year, but I think they could be even better in 2022. The Bucs have already said that “they have full intentions of starting Goedeke“, according to Carmen Vitale, but he will have some competition in camp. I think Stinnie will probably enter camp penciled in as the starting left guard, so it might be his position to lose right now. There are 15 guys in this group and they will only keep 8 or 9 on the active roster, so the battle for those three or four reserve spots should be a good one.

CAMP BATTLE TO WATCH

Aaron Stinnie vs. Luke Goedeke

As I said before, this might be Stinnie’s job to lose right now. He was able to step in and play very well when Alex Cappa was injured during their 2020 Super Bowl run. However, it sounds as though the Bucs had every intention of making Goedeke the starter when they took him in the second round of this year’s draft. It will be an interesting position battle to keep an eye on throughout camp.

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT ADDITION

None.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

William Gholston, Vita Vea, Logan Hall (R), Akiem Hicks, Pat O’Connor, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Benning Potoa’e, Deadrin Senat, Willington Previlon, Mike Greene

That’s right, no Ndamukong Suh. Instead, he will be replaced by a combination of former Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and the Bucs 2022 second-round (could’ve been a first-round) pick Logan Hall. Alongside them is the same supporting cast as last season in Vea, Gholston, Nunez-Roches, and O’Connor. They also haven’t re-signed 36-year-old Steve McLendon yet, which means they are probably looking to get younger up front on defense. The Bucs will likely keep six defensive linemen and those six spots are probably set. That means the other guys will be fighting for a spot on the practice squad.

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT ADDITION

Already did.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (7)

Shaq Barrett, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Anthony Nelson, Andre Anthony (R), Cam Gill, Elijah Ponder, Joe Ozougwu (UFAR)

The Bucs decided not to re-sign the aging Jason Pierre-Paul, which means Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will be taking his starting spot opposite Shaq Barrett. Other than that, the supporting cast is the same with Nelson, Gill, and Ponder as reserves. They also added Shaq Barrett clone Andre Anthony from LSU in the seventh round of the draft, who they hope can come in and contribute right away. With the exception of Nelson, the Bucs have no proven depth behind Barrett and Tryon-Shoyinka. Don’t be surprised if they end up signing another outside pass rusher before camp starts.

CAMP BATTLE TO WATCH

Elijah Ponder vs. Andre Anthony

The Bucs have kept Ponder hanging around the practice squad for a couple of years now. He played defensive tackle in college, but since joining the Buccaneers has dropped about 35lbs and is playing in the outside linebacker role. The Bucs picked Anthony in the seventh round of the 2022 Draft and he could also make a push for one of those reserve OLB spots.

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT ADDITION

Carl Nassib

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Bucs bring in at least one veteran edge rusher to compete in camp. One that I think makes a ton of sense is former Buc and Raider Carl Nassib, who has already played in the system. In his two years with Tampa Bay (2018-19), he had two of the best statistical seasons of his career playing 29 games and finishing with 63 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, and 12.5 sacks. Las Vegas released him to clear $8 million in cap space, but the Bucs could probably get him for a couple million a year. It’s plenty worth it to add some veteran experience behind the starters.

INSIDE LINEBACKER (7)

Devin White, Lavonte David, KJ Britt, Grant Stuard, Olakunle Fatumasi (UFAR), JJ Russell (UFAR), Jordan Young (UFAR)

As I said before, the Bucs are trying to get younger and faster on defense and on special teams. That led to them not re-signing reserve linebacker Kevin Minter. The Bucs also seem to be high on second-year player KJ Britt, who has shown flashes when on defense and excelled on special teams. Britt and Stuard should be safe, so look for Fatumasi and Russell to be battling it out for that fifth spot. That is IF the Bucs don’t add another veteran free agent to the mix.

CAMP BATTLE TO WATCH

JJ Russell vs. Olakunle Fatumasi

If the Bucs do decide to keep a fifth inside linebacker, it could come down to these two rookies. Russell is 6’1″/225lbs and Fatumasi is 6’2″/240lbs so both guys fit the size Todd Bowles likes in his ILBs. They were both extremely versatile and tackling machines in college, so this might be a good camp battle to keep an eye on. Worst case scenario, these two will be fighting for a spot on the practice squad.

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT ADDITION

Reggie Ragland

The Bucs will likely only keep four in this group, but they could bring in another veteran linebacker for training camp. One guy that I think would be intriguing is former Giant Reggie Ragland. At 6’2″/250lbs, he’s an off-the-ball linebacker that would add depth and experience to this group. The former second-round pick has some talent but just hasn’t found his system fit yet. Maybe that could be in Tampa Bay with Todd Bowles.

SAFETY (7)

Antoine Winfield Jr, Mike Edwards, Keanu Neal, Logan Ryan, Troy Warner, Chris Cooper, Nolan Turner (UFAR)

This group has had a big offseason makeover, with the loss of Jordan Whitehead in free agency (apparently the Bucs had no plans of bringing him back anyway) and the additions of veterans Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan. They also have Warner and Cooper returning, who were on the practice squad last year. I think Logan Ryan will end up playing more nickel corner than safety. If that’s the case, the Bucs would be smart to add another veteran safety to this group. With Neal’s injury history, he can’t be depended on to be a full-time starter. Adding another guy here before camp would make sense.

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT ADDITION

Landon Collins

The Bucs will probably only keep four safeties, just like they did last year. However, if they decided to make Ryan more of a nickel corner, they could add another veteran free agent safety. My choice would be former Washington strong safety Landon Collins. He had an Achilles injury in 2020, which affected his play last season. He did still have 81 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 2 interceptions in just 13 games last season. He may not be the same player in coverage that he once was, but he’s still a very solid in-the-box safety who could fit in nicely with this group.

CORNERBACK (9)

Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Zyon McCollum (R), Ross Cockrell, Dee Delaney, Rashard Robinson, Kyler McMichael (UFAR), Don Gardner (UFAR)

The Bucs were able to re-sign Davis and also added McCollum in the fifth round of the draft. That’s good considering this group was ravaged by injuries last season. Dean and Murphy-Bunting are both entering the final years of their rookie contracts, so they’ll be playing for second contracts which will hopefully bring out their best. Cockrell, Delaney, and Robinson are also back to compete for spots in camp. The Bucs will keep five or six corners, depending on what happens at safety, so there’s really only a spot or two left in this group for the active roster.

CAMP BATTLE TO WATCH

Dee Delaney vs. Ross Cockrell

The Bucs will likely keep ten defensive backs on their roster. The question is how will they divide those ten up. Will they keep five CBs and five safeties? Or will it be six CBs and four safeties? The top four spots are taken between Davis, Dean, Murphy-Bunting, and the rookie McCollum. I think Robinson will likely be the fifth corner. That means that, if the Bucs do keep six, it could come down to Delaney and Cockrell. It would be an interesting camp battle to watch. Delaney has the size Todd Bowles likes in his corners and is better in coverage. But Cockrell has proven his versatility by cross-training as a safety. I’m on the fence with this one, but leaning towards Delaney.

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT ADDITION

Xavier Rhodes

Well, I was looking at putting James Bradberry here, but the Eagles beat me to him. Then I was going to put Kyle Fuller here, but the Ravens beat me to him. Now I’ve landed on former Viking and former Colt Xavier Rhodes. At 6’1″/210lbs, he’s got the size and length that the Bucs look for in their cornerbacks. Even though he’s 31 years old and may not be the same player he once was, he probably still has enough left in the tank to contribute in this young group, whether it’s starting opposite Davis or as a reserve corner.

SPECIAL TEAMS (6)

Zach Triner (LS), Ryan Succop (K), Jose Borregales (K), Bradley Pinion (P), James Camarda (P), Sterling Hofrichter (P)

This is an interesting group. Special teams was definitely an area where the Bucs wanted to improve from last year. They have kept second-year kicker Borregales around and they just took new punter Camarda in the fourth round of the draft. Not surprisingly, they just released Bradley Pinion, which saves about $2 million in cap space. His punting hasn’t been up to par as of late, but I think he really sealed his fate in the playoff game against the Rams when he sent two kickoffs out of bounds giving L.A. the ball at midfield. If they feel confident about Borregales and they need a little more space, they could also release Succop to free up about $3.75 million. However, I think they’ll let the two of them kick it out in camp.

CAMP BATTLE TO WATCH

Ryan Succop vs. Jose Borregales

The “New Boot” versus the “Old Buc“. Tampa Bay has had their fair share of kicking woes. We had about a decade of them until Succop came to town two years ago. He finally brought some stability and consistency to the Buccaneers kicking position after years of everything but both. That being said, the Bucs also like this Borregales kid too. They wouldn’t have allowed him to take up a valuable practice squad spot last season if they didn’t. We will have ourselves a legitimate kicking battle in camp. Unless, of course, Jason Licht needs that $3.75 million in cap space and then he could decide to send the 35-year-old man down the road. After the kickers that Licht has been through during his tenure here, that wouldn’t be an easy decision to make.

POSSIBLE FREE AGENT ADDITION

None.

FINAL 53-MAN ROSTER PREDICTION

(w/o Free Agent Additions)

QB (3) – Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask

RB (4) – Leonard Fournette, Giovanni Bernard, Rachaad White (R), Ke’Shawn Vaughn

TE (4) – Cameron Brate, Cade Otton (R), Ko Kieft (R), Cody McElroy

WR (6) – Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage, Breshad Perriman, Scotty Miller, Jaelon Darden

OL (8) – Donovan Smith, Luke Goedeke (R), Ryan Jensen, Shaq Mason, Tristan Wirfs, Aaron Stinnie, Fred Johnson, Robert Hainsey

DL (6) – Vita Vea, Akiem Hicks, Will Gholston, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Pat O’Connor, Logan Hall (R)

OLB (5) – Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Shaq Barrett, Anthony Nelson, Cam Gill, Elijah Ponder

ILB (4) – Lavonte David, Devin White, KJ Britt, Grant Stuard

S (4) – Antoine Winfield Jr, Mike Edwards, Keanu Neal, Logan Ryan

CB (6) – Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Zyon McCollum (R), Rashard Robinson, Dee Delaney

ST (3) – Ryan Succop, James Camarda (R),  Zach Triner

PRACTICE SQUAD (14)

ILB Olakunle Fatumasi (R)

OL John Molchon

RB Kenjon Barner

OLB Andre Anthony (R)

 ILB JJ Russell

DL Benning Potoa’e

K Jose Borregales

CB Kyler McMichael (R)

WR Cyril Grayson

DL Deadrin Senat

OL Nick Leverett

WR Deven Thompkins (R)

OL Sadarius Hutcherson

S Chris Cooper

FINAL 53-MAN ROSTER PREDICTION

(w/ Free Agent Additions)

QB (3) – Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask

RB (4) – Leonard Fournette, Giovanni Bernard, David Johnson, Rachaad White (R)

TE (4) – Jimmy Graham, Cam Brate, Cade Otton (R), Ko Kieft (R)

WR (6) – Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage, Breshad Perriman, Scotty Miller, Jaelon Darden

OL (8) – Donovan Smith, Luke Goedeke (R), Ryan Jensen, Shaq Mason, Tristan Wirfs, Aaron Stinnie, Fred Johnson, Robert Hainsey

DL (6) – Vita Vea, Akiem Hicks, Will Gholston, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Pat O’Connor, Logan Hall (R)

OLB (5) – Shaq Barrett, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Anthony Nelson, Carl Nassib, Cam Gill

ILB (4) – Lavonte David, Devin White, KJ Britt, Grant Stuard

S (5) – Antoine Winfield Jr, Mike Edwards, Keanu Neal, Logan Ryan, Landon Collins

CB (5) – Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Kyle McCollum (R), Rashard Robinson

ST (3) – Zach Triner, Ryan Succop, James Camarda (R)

PRACTICE SQUAD (14)

TE Cody McElroy

RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn

WR Deven Thompkins

WR Cyril Grayson

OL John Molchon

OL Nick Leverett

OL Sadarius Hutcherson

DL Deadrin Senat

DL Benning Potoa’e

OLB Elijah Ponder

OLB Andre Anthony

ILB Olakunle Fatumasi

CB Kyler McMichael

S Chris Cooper