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Bucs’ veteran listed as bubble player by ESPN

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It’s unfortunate, but it makes sense.

NFL: DEC 29 Falcons at Buccaneers
The Bucs’ defense may lose one of its veterans before the season begins.
Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s the offseason, so naturally, there will always be speculation at some point.

As we get closer to the start of training camp, rosters will be analyzed more than ever, which makes complete sense. I mean, cuts are coming in a couple of months, so it’s important to try and get a feel for the landscape as early as possible.

ESPN released an article earlier this week that showcased one veteran player from each team as a bubble player. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, it means this person will likely lose their roster spot at some point before the season starts.

Jenna Laine, who covers the Bucs, decided to go with third-year cornerback M.J. Stewart. Unfortunately for Stewart, it makes sense.

He was drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft and has yet to look comfortable on the field in any capacity. The Bucs have tried him at both corner and safety, but nothing seems to work for Stewart. There was some hope last year in camp when he looked decent in blitz packages, but those never evolved nor came to fruition during the regular season.

His draft status doesn’t help, either. When you’re a second-round pick, you’re expected to be a quality or starter or a quality contributor, at best. This is no disrespect to Stewart, but he hasn’t been able to live up to either standard. It would be different if he were selected in lets, say the fourth round, like teammate Ryan Smith. As Laine points out, Smith is viewed as a valuable special teams player, which will help him keep his roster spot.

If Stewart is let go, the savings would be minimal. The Bucs would create around $500k in cap room if he were to be cut, but if we’re talking net savings, then the Bucs won’t save any money by releasing Stewart.

Stewart has started six games over the last two seasons, playing on around 28% of total snaps each season. He has 68 total tackles and no interceptions, sacks, fumble recoveries, or forced fumbles.

You can check out ESPN’s post —and Laine’s full analysis— here.