The preseason is over. Players who are on the roster bubble have shown all they can at this point. Now the tough decisions have to be made as to who will make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers final 53 man roster.
There is so much to consider with these cuts. Not only will the team try to keep the best players, but they will also consider overall depth, age, health, etc. Based on everything, here’s who I expect the Bucs to keep.
Quarterback: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
This one feels fairly obvious. Of course Brady will be the starter with Gabbert as the backup. Trask has had moments this preseason, but if he hadn’t I would find it very unlikely that they cut last year’s second round pick.
Running back: Leonard Fournette, Rachaad White, Ke’Shawn Vaughn
The first surprise comes in the running back room with the absence of Giovani Bernard. The senior citizen of this group just hasn’t been able to stay on the field or show anything in his time here. With what feels like constant injuries it’s just hard to say he has anything left in the tank.
For the backs who remain, Fournette will be the featured guy with White as the pass catcher out of the backfield. Vaughn is a guy I had about given up on, but I felt like he’s had a strong showing this preseason. He has earned his place on the roster over Bernard.
Wide receiver: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage, Julio Jones, Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden, Scotty Miller
This is a wide receiver driven offense. That’s why I decided to keep seven on my roster. The top four are all locked in, but the three after that have been up for grabs.
I went with Johnson, Darden and Miller for my final three. Johnson has had the best preseason out of all the receivers on the roster, showing a new fire with his job on the line. Darden was a fourth round pick last year who has shown improvement as the game has begun to slow down.
The surprise may come to some as Miller makes the team. He hasn’t had the best preseason compared to some of his competition. In the end out came down to having seen him do it against NFL regulars.
Tight end: Cameron Brate, Kyle Rudolph, Cade Otton, Ko Kieft
Veterans Brate and Rudolph should feel very comfortable to make the roster. As should the 2022 4th round pick in Otton, who has done well thus far.
Kieft has truly carved out a place for himself on this roster. His blocking ability has stood out on every opportunity he’s received. If this 6th round pick doesn’t make the cut then it would be very surprising.
Offensive line: Tristian Wirfs, Shaq Mason, Robert Hainsey, Luke Goedeke, Donovan Smith, Josh Wells, Nick Leverett, Fred Johnson, *Ryan Jensen
Obviously the starting five will make the team. After that there is a clear pecking order with the depth where Wells and Leverett fall in next. There will be a minimum of one more on the roster.
For now I have Johnson here. To be frank, none of the options are particularly interesting after the top seven. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Buccaneers found someone off waivers to fill this job.
One thing to note is that Jensen will make the 53 man roster before being put on injury designation. I include him on the list as a 54th man. This mean that a lower level player like Johnson will be cut before being re-signed.
Defensive line: Vita Vea, Akiem Hicks, William Gholston, Logan Hall, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Pat O’Connor
This is basically the defensive line we expected from the very beginning. The starting three in Vea, Hicks and Gholston plus Nunez-Roches and rookie Hall as the first subs in. O’Connor makes a good sixth man in the rotation and is a very good special teams player.
This is maybe the best defensive line in the NFL. Even if other guys impressed in the preseason it was always going to be an uphill battle to crack into this group.
Outside linebacker: Shaq Barrett, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Carl Nassib, Anthony Nelson, Genard Avery,
Again, a pretty expected group of names here. Barrett, Tryon-Shoyinka, Nassib and Nealson make for a good rotation or speed and power. Avery is the new name to the roster and he makes my final cut as a depth option and a special teams player.
Avery has been here shorter than anyone else and has proven the least. However, he’s been in the league for a few years now and may have already earned the coaching staff’s trust. He’s one of the last guys on my roster, but he squeaks in.
Inside linebacker: Lavonte David, Devin White, K.J. Britt, Grant Stuard, Olakunla Fatukasi
There has been talk about who should and shouldn’t make it in this group. Of course David and White are safe, as well as Britt who seems to have a firm grasp on the third linebacker job. After that there has been debate.
I decided to keep both Stuard and Fatukasi on my final roster. Stuard as strictly a special teams ace, which is something the Buccaneers desperately need. Fatukasi is probably the last guy to make the roster, and may even be cut initially to keep Jensen before going on injury designation. However, he’s impressed me to the point where I feel comfortable with him filling in when called upon.
Cornerback: Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean, Zyon McCollum, Dee Delaney
Davis is the Bucs number one corner with Murphy-Bunting and Dean in the mix for the other starting job. McCollum has impressed by all accounts, so it’s likely they keep the kid they traded a future pick to get in the draft.
The last name I decided to keep was Delaney. He works out of the nickel and is really the only corner on the roster that naturally fills that roll. He will contribute more on special teams than anything, but he has looked good when asked to play defensive snaps.
Safety: Antoine Winfield Jr, Mike Edwards, Logan Ryan, Keanu Neal
The Buccaneers four big name safeties are the only ones that make my final cut. These four should see consistent playing time on defense, with no clear special teams guy in this group.
The team could choose to keep one more because safety is a valuable position for this defense. I just couldn’t justify keeping one of the safety options over the other guys who made my final cut.
Specialists: Ryan Succup, Jake Camarda, Zach Triner
When in doubt, go with who you trust. I expect Succup to win the kicking job because he’s proven to be a solid player in the league. Jose Borregalas looked good throughout the competition, but missing a pair of kicks in his preseason games gave the nod to Succup for me.
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