With the 2018 preseason officially over, the Buccaneers have cut down their roster to 53 players. We now know who they will (and won’t) be riding into New Orleans with next Sunday afternoon.
Tampa Bay didn’t do anything overly controversial on Saturday (like trading away its best defensive player, who also happens to be one of the best in the league... Sorry, Oakland). However, there were a couple of surprises. Veteran safety Keith Tandy and special teams captain Josh Robinson didn’t make the team’s roster, with youth unseating both guys. There weren’t a ton of surprises with rest of the roster, though the team will have some decisions to make when Jameis Winston returns from his suspension and Kendell Beckwith comes back from injury.
Here is the 53-man roster that the Bucs will go with to start this season:
QB (2): Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin
With Winston serving a three-game suspension to start the year, Fitzpatrick will start and Griffin will back him up. Griffin’s strong preseason makes it plausible for the Bucs to carry three quarterbacks upon Winston’s return. Otherwise, they would risk losing Griffin, something that wouldn’t make much sense considering Fitzpatrick is only back on a one-year deal.
RB (4): Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones II, Jacquizz Rodgers, Shaun Wilson
Once Charles Sims went down with an injury in week three of the preseason, there wasn’t much suspense here. Barber is the unquestioned starter at this point, especially with Jones’ poor preseason. The rookie will still be the No. 2 guy that rotates in frequently, while Rodgers takes on a role as the third down/pass-catching back. Wilson, an undrafted rookie out of Duke, had some tough competition throughout the preseason from Dare Ogunbowale, but did more than enough as a runner and kick returner to make the roster. Ogunbowale was the odd man out, though he found a spot on the team’s practice squad.
WR (6): Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries, Justin Watson, Freddie Martino
The top four receivers have been set since the end of last season. The big question throughout the preseason was whether Tampa Bay would opt to carry five receivers or six. Watson, a rookie, was a lock to be on the roster by the midway point of the preseason. The first surprise, although a minor one, came here with Martino edging out Bobo Wilson for the sixth spot. The Bucs will have to take someone off the roster when Winston comes back in week four. Martino might end up being a candidate to be that guy, though it’s tough to say right now. Wilson ended up on the practice squad.
TE (4): Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Antony Auclair, Alan Cross
There was nothing to be shocked about here either, as Brate and Howard are locked in as the top two tight ends. The team has been high on both Auclair and Cross over the last couple of years. You would be hard-pressed to find a better tight end group in the league.
OL (10): Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet, Ryan Jensen, Caleb Benenoch, Demar Dotson, Evan Smith, Mike Liedtke, Alex Cappa, Leonard Wester Adam Gettis
Tampa Bay’s decision to carry 10 offensive linemen was somewhat of a surprise, though it makes sense. Considering the fact that Donovan Smith’s status for week one is still uncertain, it’s good to have depth. In that depth is a ton of versatility, with guys like Evan Smith, Liedtke, Cappa and Gettis all capable of playing multiple positions. One of the lineman could go once Winston returns, as long as the group as a whole remains healthy.
DL (10): Jason Pierre-Paul, Beau Allen, Gerald McCoy, Vinny Curry, Noah Spence, Will Clarke, Will Gholston, Vita Vea, Mitch Unrein, Jerel Worthy
The Bucs are going with 10 guys on both sides of the line after general manager Jason Licht made the trenches a big priority this offseason. This group might look different by the time the team heads to New Orleans, as Unrein has missed time this preseason with a concussion. A decision could be looming there regarding a potential spot on IR. Worthy is sticking around for now after being added to the roster in late August.
LB (5): Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Adarius Taylor, Cameron Lynch, Jack Cichy
Injuries to Kendell Beckwith, Devante Bond and Riley Bullough made this pretty straightforward. David and Alexander are superstars, while Taylor was also locked into Beckwith’s strong-side spot. Lynch has shown off potential when given the opportunity and the team appears to be high on Cichy, a sixth-rounder coming off an ACL injury. Beckwith will begin the year on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list and is eligible to return in six weeks.
CB (6): Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves III, Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart, Ryan Smith, De’Vante Harris
Tampa Bay elected to keep six cornerbacks, with De’Vante Harris making the cut. Harris was added to the roster in early August after he was cut by the Saints. He was presumably one of the players who made the roster over former special teams captain Josh Robinson, who never got much work in the secondary. Grimes and Hargreaves are the team’s two outside starters, though the rookie duo of Davis and Stewart will see plenty of snaps. Smith, who had a poor preseason, remains on the roster.
S (4): Chris Conte, Justin Evans, Jordan Whitehead, Isaiah Johnson
The biggest surprise of Saturday for the Bucs was the release of Keith Tandy, who had been with the team since 2012. Despite his solid play near the end of the 2016 season, Tandy was an afterthought for much of 2017 and didn’t appear to figure much into Tampa Bay’s plans throughout the 2018 preseason. His spot instead went to Johnson, which seems to indicate that the Bucs are going younger in 2018. Conte and Evans will start, but Whitehead will surely work his way in as a rookie.
Specialists (2): Chandler Catanzaro, Bryan Anger
After getting $3.75 million guaranteed from the Bucs this offseason, Catanzaro was always going to be the team’s kicker heading into the season. That hefty guaranteed money rules out the option of signing veteran Dan Bailey, who was let go by the Cowboys on Saturday. Anger is back as the team’s punter, still on the big contract extension he signed at the end of 2016. Tampa Bay currently doesn’t have a long-snapper on the roster, so someone elsewhere on the roster will have to go before next Sunday.
Reserve/Suspended List: QB Jameis Winston
Reserve/Non-Football Injury List: LB Kendell Beckwith
Injured Reserve: LBs Devante Bond and Riley Bullough
What are your thoughts on the Buccaneers’ initial 53-man roster?