IT’S ALMOST THAT TIME!
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played their final game of the 2022 preseason (thank God!) on Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts and soon we will know who has made the team’s final 53-man roster. All 32 teams’ final cuts must be made by 4 pm this afternoon, so the last couple of days have been pretty stressful for some of the Bucs players who were on the bubble.
Putting together an NFL roster isn’t easy. There’s many variables that go into the process. It’s not just the best 53 players. The decisions are based on position depths, who can contribute on special teams, which players qualify for the practice squad, and which players can get through waivers without another team snatching them up. There’s a method to the madness. And Jason Licht and his staff have that method down pretty good.
After visiting camp, seeing reports, and watching their preseason games, I have compiled my own version of who I think the Bucs should keep on their 53-man roster, as well as their 16-man practice squad. So after a ton of thought and consideration, here’s my 2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster predictions. Enjoy!
Keep: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
Cut: Ryan Griffin
It looks like it’s the end of the road for Ryan Griffin. After spending the last 7 seasons in Tampa Bay, having never thrown a regular season pass, and earning nearly $7 million in the process, the free ride on Griff’s gravy train is over. He’s had very limited snaps in practice and didn’t play a down in preseason. I suppose the Bucs could keep him around on the practice squad, but I think there’s too much talent on this team to use up a valuable roster spot on a fourth QB. Brady will be the starter heading into his 22nd NFL season. Gabbert will be his backup. And Trask will continue to develop as what all of us hope is our quarterback of the future.
RUNNING BACKS (3)
Keep: Leonard Fournette, Rachaad White (R), Ke’Shawn Vaughn
Cut: Giovanni Bernard, Patrick Laird
Even with the recent signing of Patrick Laird, the Bucs running back room is looking pretty thin. The team put Kenjon Barner on IR, so unless they sign another free agent that possibly gets released in the next couple of days then they will be rolling with the top three guys on the roster. Fournette has developed into the every down back the Bucs have been missing for so long. The rookie White might have won the third-down back position. And Vaughn will play a limited role as a backup/special teamer. With his extensive injury history and extremely limited role in the offense even when healthy, Bernard is a wasted roster spot in my opinion so he gets released.
Possible FA Addition: Sony Michel
Michel was just released by the Dolphins in a somewhat surprising move by Miami and would be a much better option as a dual-purpose back than Bernard or Laird at this point. Plus, there is that connection to Tom Brady in New England.
WIDE RECEIVERS (7)
Keep: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Julio Jones, Russell Gage, Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden, Scotty Miller
Cut: Breshad Perriman, Deven Thompkins (R), Kaylon Geiger (R), Jerreth Sterns (R)
I think the Bucs end up keeping seven receivers, especially after what happened last year with injuries. There’s been a really good battle throughout camp for those last couple of spots, as well as on the practice squad, but it seems to have worked itself out in my opinion. Evans, Godwin, Jones, and Gage were always givens. Darden will likely be the returner and has improved as a receiver as well. And the final two spots will go to two guys that have been here for a few years in Johnson and Miller.
TIGHT ENDS (4)
Keep: Kyle Rudolph, Cade Otton (R), Cam Brate, Ko Kieft (R)
Cut: JJ Howland (R)
This is quite a different tight end room than the Bucs had a year ago. Rob Gronkowski “retired” and OJ Howard left in free agency to the Bills where he’s in danger of not even making the team. With the addition of Rudolph in free agency and the rookies Otton and Kieft in the draft, Brate is the lone man standing from last year’s group. After waiving Cody McElroy, Ben Beise, and Bug Howard, JJ Howland is currently the only other tight end on the roster besides the top four guys. So unless they sign another free agent or bring Howard back if he’s cut in Buffalo, it looks like this is the direction they’ll be going.
Possible FA Addition: OJ Howard
It’s probably not going to happen, but if the Bills do part ways with Howard and he becomes a free agent, the possibility is there that he comes back to Tampa. A small possibility, but a possibility nonetheless. The Bucs seem pretty happy with the group they have now, but they don’t have anything for depth beyond those top four guys. Adding another free agent seems to be a better option than keeping JJ Howland around.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
Keep: Donovan Smith, Luke Goedeke (R), Robert Hainsey, Shaq Mason, Tristan Wirfs, Nick Leverett, Fred Johnson, Brandon Walton, John Molchon
Cut: Josh Wells, Sadarius Hutcherson, Dylan Cook
Boy, what an offseason and preseason it’s been for this group. The loss of Alex Cappa in free agency to the Bengals. The sudden, early retirement of Ali Marpet. The major injury to Ryan Jensen at the start of camp. The season-ending injury to Aaron Stinnie. The minor abdominal injury to Tristan Wirfs. The scare with Robert Hainsey’s leg cramps and now ankle. Now it’s Nick Leverett’s shoulder. Even through all of that, it appears as though the Bucs have their starting O-line set for this season. Smith stays put at left tackle. The rookie Goedeke earned the spot at left guard that he was drafted for in April. Hainsey will take over the spot that he was drafted for last year at center, even if it is a year early. The veteran Mason takes over at right guard and should be an upgrade there over Cappa. And the Pro Bowler Wirfs continues his dominance at right tackle.
With the minor injuries to Hainsey and Leverett in the Colts game, the Bucs could choose to keep an extra lineman just in case. Leverett can play all three interior spots and appears to be their backup center. Walton has the flexibility to play guard or tackle. Molchon is the third-string center and can play guard as well. And I prefer Johnson as the swing tackle because I can’t stand Wells. The Bucs will likely go with Wells over Johnson, but not me.
Possible FA Addition: James Ferentz
If the Patriots part ways with him, the Bucs might be interested. He wouldn’t unseat any of the starters, but he could be a versatile, veteran lineman that would add depth to an interior O-line that has already been hit hard with injuries. Plus, there is that New England connection with Tom Brady again.
DEFENSIVE LINE (6)
Keep: Vita Vea, Will Gholston, Akiem Hicks, Logan Hall (R), Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Pat O’Connor
Cut: Mike Greene, Benning Potoa’e, Willington Previlon, Deadrin Senat
The Bucs could decide to keep seven players from this group. If that happens, I think the recently signed Mike Greene will be that last guy. However, should they go with six, Greene could end up on the practice squad.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (5)
Keep: Shaq Barrett, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Carl Nassib, Anthony Nelson, Genard Avery
Cut: Andre Anthony (R), Jordan Young (R), Elijah Ponder
This will be another interesting decision for the Buccaneers’ front office. To keep four outside linebackers and five inside linebackers or vice versa? I think they’ll go with more OLBs since they’ll want to keep that rotation fresh. Those top four are a given, but that fifth spot is still up for grabs. My guess is that they go with the veteran Avery who can give them depth at both inside AND outside LB, as well as contribute on special teams.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4)
Keep: Devin White, Lavonte David, KJ Britt, Olakunle Fatukasi (R)
Cut: Grant Stuard, JJ Russell (R)
This decision was tough for me because I’m a big Grant Stuard fan. However, Fatukasi simply outplayed him this preseason. It really came down to his ability to add more value on defense than Stuard as they are both good on special teams.
Keep: Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Dee Delaney, Zyon McCollum (R)
Cut: Kyler McMichael (R), Rashard Robinson, Don Gardner (R)
Don Gardner played well enough to possibly earn one of those reserve roles, but I’m putting him on the practice squad and going with the guy that has been here and done that instead in Delaney.
Possible FA Addition: Justin Bethel
Another guy that could be on the Patriots bubble and end up a free agent, Bethel is a former special teams Pro Bowler that could be the gunner Todd Bowles has been looking for but hasn’t found this preseason.
Keep: Antoine Winfield Jr, Mike Edwards, Logan Ryan, Keanu Neal
Cut: Chris Cooper, Nolan Turner (R)
Had anyone else in camp impressed me, I would’ve kept five safeties. Instead, I’m going with just four and hoping they stay healthy. Nolan Turner may have done enough to earn a spot on the practice squad, but I don’t think he’ll make the final roster.
Possible FA Addition: Rudy Ford
Ford was just released by the Jaguars and would be a good addition to this Bucs secondary. He’s got good size and speed, which the Bucs like, and is a special teams stud. He also has the ability and versatility to play multiple positions on defense. And bonus, he was drafted by Bruce Arians in 2017 during his final season with the Cardinals.
Keep: Zach Triner, Ryan Succop, Jake Camarda (R)
Cut: Jose Borregales
Well, the camp kicking competition was fun while it lasted, but it looks like the veteran is keeping his job. They both looked good in practice, but Borregales just had too many misses in the preseason games. The Bucs will likely stick with the guy that they know will come through in the clutch, even though the youngster has a bigger leg. The Bucs may still keep Borregales around on the practice squad like they did last season IF they really like him enough.
16-MAN PRACTICE SQUAD
RB Patrick Laird
OL Josh Wells
OL Sadarius Hutcherson
WR Deven Thompkins (R)
WR Breshad Perriman
TE JJ Howland (R)
S Nolan Turner (R)
OLB Elijah Ponder
OLB Andre Anthony (R)
ILB Grant Stuard
CB Don Gardner (R)
CB Rashard Robinson
DL Deadrin Senat
DL Benning Potoa’e
DL Mike Greene
K Jose Borregales
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