In a surprising move, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have cut ties with safety Tanard Jackson. The sixth-year veteran is listed as "failed physical" and Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times notes that Jackson had shoulder surgery this offseason and is expected to be ready to play in June. Jackson was scheduled to make $2 million in salary this season, and could earn another $1 million in roster bonuses. Per Stroud, Mark Dominik said the Bucs weren't happy with Jackson's growth both on and off the field, making a return to the fold later this offseason unlikely at best. Dominik noted that they were not aware of any league issues pertaining to Jackson.
Tanard Jackson is a very talented safety whose career has been marked by drug-related suspensions. After serving a four-game suspension in 2009, Jackson was suspended for over a season in 2010. When he returned to the field in 2011, the Bucs immediately gave him a one-year contract extension and a starting job. Unfortunately, the former fourth-round pick out of Syracuse was constantly hampered by injuries. In addition, and much more troubling, he seemed to have forgotten about two of his appendages called 'arms', as he was quite possibly the worst tackler in the entire NFL. Still, he made and impact on the field with two interceptions, and there was hope that he'd return to form with some strong offseason work.
With Jackson's release, the Bucs have a major gaping hole at safety. The team has now lost both of last year's starters in Sean Jones and Tanard Jackson, though neither player played well enough to warrant bringing back. Currently the roster is filled with late-round draft picks, waiver wire pick-ups and undrafted free agents. Ahmad Black, Cody Grimm, Devin Holland and Larry Asante are the four safeties still on the team. Grimm and Asante were late-round draftees in 2010, while Black was a late-round pick in 2011 and Devin Holland an undrafted free agent in the same year. With the exception of Holland, all of them are undersized and lack range in pass coverage. And while Holland is physically very gifted, it remains to be seen whether he can play in the NFL as he spent almost all of last year on injured reserve.
Safety is now a major hole on the roster, and it shouldn't surprise anyone if the Bucs addressed that position in the draft or through free agency. Unfortunately, this year's draft class is particularly weak at safety, and there are very few (if any) quality free agents at safety available. The Bucs could look to move a cornerback to safety. Ronde Barber and possibly Myron Lewis could be candidates for such a move.