The Buccaneers' 53-Man roster.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have found a home for some of the promising players they had to cut on Saturday.
On Sunday, the Buccaneers announced the signing of eight players to the first iteration of their practice squad: running backs Peyton Barber and Russell Hansbrough, offensive linemen Josh Allen and Ben Gottschalk, wide receiver Freddie Martino, linebacker Josh Keyes, cornerback Javien Elliott and safety Isaiah Johnson. The Bucs have also agreed to practice squad terms with linebacker Micah Awe and wide receiver Jeremy Butler.
READ: Bucs Trim Roster to 53
That's all 10 spots the Bucs had to fill, most of them now occupied by players who just went through training camp and the preseason with the team. In fact, Butler, who was waived by the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, is the lone newcomer, but his signing still represents a homecoming of sorts. A Sarasota native, he starred at Booker High School before heading to the College of the Sequoias and then the University of Tennessee-Martin. The Ravens signed Butler as an undrafted free agent in 2014, though he spent his rookie season on injured reserve. Last year, Butler played in eight games and caught 31 passes for 363 yards.
Martino also has some regular-season experience, having played in one game for the Atlanta Falcons during his 2014 rookie campaign. He spent all of last season on the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad.
Pictures of the Buccaneers during the 2016 preseason games.
Barber and Hansbrough were the Bucs' two leading rushers during the 2016 preseason as the battle for the third running back spot behind Doug Martin and Charles Sims came down to the wire. The team eventually stuck with fourth-year veteran Mike James in that role but obviously saw potential in the two undrafted rookies out of Alabama and Missouri, respectively. Barber ran 39 times for 99 yards in the four preseason games and also added seven receptions for 55 yards. Hansbrough logged 22 carries for 50 yards and seven catches for 32 yards.
Allen, Gottschalk and Keyes were all with the Buccaneers in 2015, with the two linemen spending all of their time on the practice squad. Keyes started his rookie season on the Bucs' practice squad, too, but eventually earned a promotion to the active roster where he played in seven games, primarily on special teams. Allen and Gottschalk started Tampa Bay's preseason finale against Washington last Wednesday, and Allen also opened the previous contest against Cleveland, drawing praise for his play from Head Coach Dirk Koetter. Both linemen are capable of playing center and guard.
Awe, Elliott and Johnson are all undrafted rookies. A former walk-on at Florida State who played just one season for the Seminoles, Elliott wasn't signed until shortly before the start of training camp. He recorded two tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass defensed during the preseason while Johnson, a former Notre Dame standout contributed four tackles, one interception and one pass defensed. Awe, who played his college ball at Texas Tech, had five preseason tackles and a quarterback pressure, plus a stop on special teams.
Practice squad players are not eligible to play in games unless they are first signed to the active roster, and they can be signed away at any time to the active roster of another club. As the name suggests, they can practice during the week, which helps teams fill out their scout teams. The practice squad is often also an important stepping stone for players on their way to more permanent spots in the NFL.
Last year, 15 different Buccaneer players saw time on the active roster after toiling on the practice squad: Keyes, Jude Adjei-Barimah, Cameron Brate, Kourtnei Brown, Donteea Dye, Darius Eubanks, Reid Fragel, Adam Humphries, Mike James, Howard Jones, Orie Lemon, Kimario McFadden, Josh Shirley, Evan Spencer and Tevin Westbrook. (Brown, Humphries, Lemon and McFadden were also on the 53-man roster before their practice squad stints.) Adjei-Barimah, Brate, Humphries, James, Jones and Spencer are all now on the 53-man roster to start the 2016 season.