By Evan Winter
Special to Sports Talk Florida
With the first preseason game out of the way, the Bucs now have to start thinking about roster cuts. Even if they’re already at August 17’s 85-man limit.
2021 is different from 2020 in terms of the roster cut process. The NFL changed things up to where teams have to release or waive five players by Tuesday, August 17. Then it’s five more players by August 24. Last is the final cut to 53 by August 31.
Therefore, it’s time to go ahead and dish out a 53-man roster projection. Players will be listed in order of first-, second-, third-string, etc..
Who makes the cut and who doesn’t? Let’s find out.
It’s basically a guarantee that the Bucs won’t carry four quarterbacks on the initial 53-man roster, which means Ryan Griffin is on the outs. He was not good against the Bengals so this is pretty much set in stone unless he just absolutely destroys it over the next few weeks.
This one is pretty much set in stone, as well. Jones and Fournette will likely split snaps. Gio will be in on third down and obvious passing downs. Vaughn might be active on game days if he can impress on special teams like he did against the Bengals. Overall, it’s a solid enough group with depth.
The first tough choice of final cuts. Will the Bucs carry seven receivers into the season? Based off Mickens’ camp (he made a couple of nice catches against the Bengals, too) and Darden’s draft status, one would assume they will. Bruce Arians carried six receivers in 2019 and seven in 2020, but John Hurst was placed on the three-week IR, so he didn’t count against 2020’s initial roster. Regardless, we know the Bucs will carry at least six receivers on the final roster. This year, it looks to be seven, again.
The fourth tight end spot is a toss-up in my opinion, but McElroy will likely win the job. Tanner Hudson’s blocking ability -or lack thereof- will prevent him from making the roster and Jerell Adams has kind of disappeared after a nice first week of camp.
- Donovan Smith
- Ali Marpet
- Ryan Jensen
- Alex Cappa
- Tristan Wirfs
- Josh Wells
- Aaron Stinnie
- Robert Hainsey
- Nick Leverett
The Bucs have to carry eight offensive linemen and activate them on game day if they want to have 48 active players instead of 47 on Sundays. They already have those eight spots filled up, but what about the ninth? Leverett has really gained some traction over the last couple weeks and can play both inside and out. With the Bucs’ current depth issues at center, it makes sense for the Bucs to add one more guy on the inside as the ninth offensive lineman. The fact that Leverett can kick outside only makes the deal that much sweeter. This can obviously change as the interior offensive line becomes healthier, as well. But for now, Leverett has earned his spot.
This is pretty much a copy and paste from last year’s 53-man roster, but hey, the Bucs know what they have in the defensive trenches. Both Nacho and Davis have had good camps and O’Connor is a big presence on special teams.
It really comes down the fourth spot, here. Britt had a solid debut against the Bengals and has been active on special teams, so he should make the Bucs’ roster as a rookie. Grant Stuard simply hasn’t done enough and Joe Jones -despite his pick-six on Saturday– is more of a special teams guy.
Four edge rushers seems awfully light, but when you combine JPP’s and Barrett’s usual snap counts and Tryon’s development, then it’s easy to see why the Bucs would carry four guys at this position.
The top-4 are easily set when it comes to cornerback and right now, the fifth spot is Hamilton’s job to lose. The Bucs already waived Cameron Kinley, so that tells you a lot about the competition after Hamilton.
Cockrell’s performance at safety has thrown a nice wrench into the Bucs’ plans for the defensive backfield, but I think they carry four safeties at the end of the day. Hagan showed all the potential in the world as a playmaker against the Bengals and has done more than any other reserve safety in camp. The Bucs are really five deep at safety, but the roster will reflect four.
Nothing changes, here. Like a few other positions, everything is already set in stone.
So, who will make the Bucs’ practice squad?
Y’all didn’t think I’d leave you without a practice squad projection, did you? Teams will be able to carry 16 players on the practice squad again, just like 2020. This includes up to six veterans, as well.
Here’s the 16-man practice squad projection. This obviously doesn’t include potential pickups from other teams. And it is in no particular order:
- QB Ryan Griffin
- RB Troymaine Pope
- WR Travis Jonsen
- WR Cyril Grayson Jr.
- TE Tanner Hudson
- T Brad Seaton
- G John Molchon
- DL Steve McClendon
- DL Benning Potoa’e
- ILB Grant Stuard
- ILB Joe Jones
- OLB Cam Gill
- OLB Quinton Bell
- CB Nate Brooks
- CB Chris Wilcox
- K Jose Borregales