New year, new roster. With every new season comes a lot of change, even for teams that are able to retain most (or all in the Buccaneers’ case) of their starting lineup.
Because of these changes, there is always roster turnover. However, this may come as a surprise to some players, especially those that have been on the team for a number of years.
The NFL world is cut-throat, if you’re not better than the next guy, your career might be in jeopardy. With the influx of rookies and free-agents, some of these veterans are going to need to fight tooth and nail to hold their spot against these newcomers.
That’s why I’m going to be bringing out my crystal ball again to predict who I think might not be able to beat out their training camp competition to end up on the final 53 man roster.
While I don’t think anyone from the starting lineup with end up losing their spot, there are some depth pieces that might be replaced by Week One, so let’s dive in.
Now this might be a player that comes as no surprise. With the Buccaneers drafting Jaelon Darden in the 2021 draft, the writing is practically already on the wall for Mickens. He was signed during the 2019 season to act as a return man and an emergency receiver and was actually quite a spark in the return game throughout the 2020 playoff run.
He even stepped in as a receiver for a few games this past season and caught seven passes for 58 yards. Despite his success in limited opportunities, he just doesn’t really have a place anymore on this loaded Buccaneers roster.
With the aforementioned Darden predictably taking over the return duties, Mickens could really only find his way as a receiver. However, if the Buccaneers have a spoil of riches anywhere on this roster, it’s in the receiving room, which would make it difficult for him to stick there. Because of this, Mickens may be wearing a different uniform in 2021.
The long time Buccaneer veteran might finally see his road come to an end in Tampa Bay. After serving as the third string quarterback since 2015, Griffin is finally being faced with competition that might oust him from his current position.
In the five years that Griffin has been in Tampa Bay, other quarterbacks have walked through the door to test his spot, but Griffin has always prevailed as the third option.
But, with the Bucs selecting Kyle Trask in the second round of the 2021 draft, it seems as if Griffin will find himself as the odd-man out for the first time. However, the fan favorite will forever be immortalized on the T-shirts of many Buccaneers fans after keeping Brady upright after the Super Bowl boat parade.
Ok so now this one may come as a surprise, but hear me out. Tampa Bay has a fearsome pass rush and one that ranks pretty high amongst NFL teams. However, outside of their starting duo of Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett, there’s not a lot of production.
One of the biggest culprits of this is Anthony Nelson, a talented run defender who just doesn’t really add anything from a pass rush standpoint. Following the trend of bumping someone off the roster due to the draft, I think Nelson has the potential to be a depth casualty after the Bucs selected Joe Tryon in the first round.
After a season in which the Buccaneers only carried four outside linebackers, Nelson is falling to the bottom of that list and may lose out to another guy whose pass rush is stronger than his. While I would think Cam Gill gets the axe before Nelson, anything is possible when deciding between multiple players for the same spot.
For the final player on this list, I wanted to look at a guy who I am almost positive will be on the outside when the dust settles. While Watson was seen as someone who could’ve been a diamond in the rough after coming out of the University of Pennsylvania, he never really amounted to more than a special teams player.
It isn’t really his fault though as he’s primarily been stuck behind more talented players like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Antonio Brown, etc. which have pushed him to the bottom of the receiving depth chart year after year.
On top of this, a less than optimal connection with Tom Brady in 2020 and the addition of some special teams players through the draft forces Watson to fight an uphill battle. While he has shown flashes of being capable as the third or fourth option on an NFL roster, he just won’t find that on an absolutely loaded roster.
Almost anything can happen in training camp, which means that there are probably a lot of surprises in store before the season begins. For the Buccaneers, I don’t think we’ll see many surprises since a good amount of their roster is already set.
However, the four players that I’ve listed here are sitting in a potentially precarious situation due to the amount of depth that Tampa Bay will be bringing to the table. In the receiver room, the addition of Dardon and some other special teamers might mean the end for Mickens and Watson.
At the outside linebacker position, Joe Tryon is going to force someone out, it just depends on who that will be. While my belief is that Cam Gill will be the odd man out, we might see a surprise cut in Anthony Nelson just because his pass rush and pass coverage (which Bowles loves to do with his OLBs) is well below average.
As for Griffin, the addition of Trask and the re-signing of Gabbert is probably the end for him. While it will be sad to see some of these players go, just remember, they all got a Super Bowl ring out of it and probably won’t be too sad to compete for actual playing time elsewhere.