A year ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' initial 53-man roster for the regular season featured four undrafted rookies. The Buccaneers' first regular-season lineup for 2017 includes just one such newcomer, but it still features some young players who earned their spots due to impressive training camp and preseason performances.
That one undrafted rookie on the first iteration of Tampa Bay's 2017 roster is tight end Antony Auclair, whose successful journey to the NFL regular season is made doubly impressive by the fact that he played his college football at the Canadian college of Laval, which has only fielded a football team since 1996. No previous Laval product has ever played in the NFL.
The Buccaneers kept four of their 2017 draft picks on the active roster, all of them selected in the first three rounds: tight end O.J. Howard, safety Justin Evans, wide receiver Chris Godwin and linebacker Kendell Beckwith. Only one other player on the Bucs' 53-man roster as of Saturday evening was still looking for his first regular-season NFL action.
That would be first-year wide receiver Bernard Reedy, who has been to four training camps with the Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons. Reedy excelled during the 2017 preseason, finishing second on the team with eight catches for 72 yards, scoring the Bucs' only passing touchdown of the August slate and turning in a handful of big plays in the return game. He could be in line to fill one or both of the punt and kickoff return jobs to start the season and would be an intriguing backup to Adam Humphries at slot receiver.
Photos of the Buccaneers' complete roster.
The relative lack of young and undrafted players on this year's roster can be interpreted positively, of course. The team believes it is entering the 2017 season with better overall roster depth than it has enjoyed in years, making it harder for newcomers to crack the lineup. In addition, all four of those players who made it as undrafted rookies last year – running back Peyton Barber, tight end Alan Cross, defensive end Davonte Lambert and defensive tackle Channing Ward – managed to hold onto their spots, though Lambert is on injured reserve. Another undrafted rookie who was added to the active roster later in the 2016 season, cornerback Javien Elliott, has also secured his roster spot again.
The Buccaneers are likely to make some additional roster moves on Sunday after the enormous waiver wire from Saturday's cuts has cleared. In the meantime, here are some additional observations from the very first depth chart of the 2017 regular season:
- The Bucs kept three quarterbacks through the cutdown to 53, even though Head Coach Dirk Koetter said earlier in the offseason that the team would prefer to go with just two. This could be a procedural matter. Ryan Griffin has not played or practiced since suffering a shoulder injury in Week Two of the preseason. If the Buccaneers are interested in starting Griffin on injured reserve but still want the option of bringing him back to action during the regular season, they had to keep him on the 53-man roster through Saturday's cuts. Players put on IR before the cut to 53 are not eligible to have one of the "designated-for-return" options used on them.
- Tampa Bay finished its Saturday cuts without a long-snapper on the roster, which essentially guarantees that additional moves are coming. Andrew DePaola was released on Friday and Garrison Sanborn was let go on Saturday. Both are eligible to be re-signed. The Buccaneers officially have Glanton on the depth chart as a long-snapper, but that is likely for emergency situations only.
- Defensive end Jacquies Smith was not moved to the reserve/PUP list. That would appear to be good news. Koetter indicated on Friday that it was a "a possibility" that Smith would count against the 53-man roster from the get-go, and so far that's the case. By putting Smith on the active/PUP list at the start of training camp, the Buccaneers gave themselves the option of transferring him to the reserve list at the start of the regular season, and that seemed like more of a possibility when he suffered a setback in his recovery from last year's knee injury late in July. Had the Bucs' talented edge rusher been moved to reserve/PUP, he would have missed at least the first six weeks of the regular season.
- The Buccaneers kept six linebackers, which may be an indication of several positive developments. One of those six was Devante Bond, a 2016 sixth-round draft pick who spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve. Bond started out camp hot and was in a tight battle for the starting SAM linebacker spot with rookie Kendell Beckwith. However, an injury has kept Bond sidelined since the second week of camp, and it would have been unfortunate to see him start a second straight season on IR. So far, that is not the case. Even if Bond does subsequently go on IR, or if he is out for some number of weeks, the Buccaneers found good depth in Adarius Glanton and Cameron Lynch, both of whom performed very well in Thursday's preseason finale.
- The tight end corps runs five deep. This is not actually a surprise, given that the tight end room actually encompasses three different jobs. The Buccaneers' offense has use for a traditional "in-line" tight end, a "move" tight end or H-Back, and a lead-blocking fullback, and those roles will be divvied up by Howard, Cross, Auclair, Cameron Brate, Luke Stocker. It may be the deepest position on the roster.
- The depth at tight end may have affected the running back room, at least for now. Tampa Bay kept only three running backs in Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims and Peyton Barber, with McNichols the notable cut. However, that's a typical number for the team to keep active on game day, so the backfield probably has sufficient depth for the early going, with Martin due to return in Week Four. Koetter said he intends to keep a combination of 12 receivers, tight ends and running backs active on game day, and the Bucs kept a total of 13 players at those three spots on the initial 53-man roster. That would seem to make the final decision for an active spot in Week One come down to Reedy or Auclair.