The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have emerged from the most unusual training camp in franchise history with a 53-man roster they are ready to take into their highly-anticipated 2020 season.
The formation of the 2020 roster began with a bang back in March when the Buccaneers signed legendary quarterback Tom Brady to lead them back into postseason contention. There were other dramatic moves along the way – the trade for tight end Rob Gronkowski, the trade up to nab tackle Tristan Wirfs in the first round of the draft – and there are surely more to come. In fact, Head Coach Bruce Arians answered questions on Thursday about the apparently imminent signing of former Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette. For sheer volume, however, the 26 roster moves the Buccaneers announced on Saturday made it the most active roster-building day of the year.
View photos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 53-man roster.
The annual league-wide roster reduction on the weekend before the start of the regular season is commonly known as "final cuts," but the resulting 53-man roster is far from final. The Buccaneers may actually tweak that initial roster at several spots on Sunday, with the possibility of players being placed on injured reserve and some potential treasures to be found on the crowded waiver wire.
As for now, the Bucs' 53-man roster is a little light at running back and a little deep at wide receiver. The team kept just three backs through Saturday's cuts, with Dare Ogunbowale and rookie seventh-rounder Ray Calais among the 24 players who were waived. The receiver position is currently running seven deep, with two rookies – fifth-rounder Tyler Johnson and undrafted free agent John Hurst – making the cut.
On defense, the Bucs went deepest along the defensive line, with a total of six big men on the 53-man list, including sixth-round rookie Khalil Davis. The leanest defensive positions are safety and inside linebacker, both of which were trimmed to just four players on Saturday. That is a common number of safeties on the Bucs' depth chart, but the team usually carries at least five inside linebackers.
Here's how the 53-man roster breaks down, with the players listed alphabetically at each position (rookies marked with an asterisk):
Quarterbacks (3): Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin
Running Backs (3): Ronald Jones, LeSean McCoy, Ke'Shawn Vaughn*
Wide Receivers (7): Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, John Hurst, Tyler Johnson, Jaydon Mickens, Scotty Miller, Justin Watson
Tight Ends (4): Antony Auclair, Cameron Brate, Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard
Offensive Linemen (9): Alex Cappa, Joe Haeg, Ryan Jensen, Ali Marpet, John Molchon, Donovan Smith, Aaron Stinnie, Josh Wells, Tristan Wirfs
Defensive Linemen (6): Khalil Davis*, Will Gholston, Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Patrick O'Connor, Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea
Outside Linebackers (5): Shaquil Barrett, Quinton Bell, Cam Gill*, Anthony Nelson, Jason Pierre-Paul
Inside Linebackers (4): Jack Cichy, Lavonte David, Kevin Minter, Devin White
Cornerbacks (5): Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Parnell Motley*, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Ryan Smith
Safeties (4): Andrew Adams, Mike Edwards, Jordan Whitehead, Antoine Winfield*
Specialists (3): Bradley Pinion (punter), Ryan Succop (placekicker), Zach Triner (long-snapper)
Fourteen of those 53 players are new to the team in 2020. That list starts with Brady, obviously, but also includes tight end Rob Gronkowski, running backs Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy and kicker Ryan Succop, the lattermost of whom replaces 2019 rookie Matt Gay. That said, every player projected to start for the team on defense is returning from last year's squad and that crew is expected to continue its momentum after a very strong finish to 2019.
The oldest player on the roster is Tom Brady, the ageless 43-year old quarterback who came to Tampa to chase titles with a new team after 20 years and six Super Bowl wins in New England. Last year, the Buccaneers opened the season with only three players on their 53 man roster aged 30 or older; this year they have nine such players, with Brady joined by Ryan Succop (33), Ndamukong Suh (33), Rob Gronkowski (31), Jason Pierre-Paul (31), Ryan Griffin (30), Blaine Gabbert (30) and Lavonte David (30). Linebacker Kevin Minter will also turn 30 during the season.
The youngest player on the roster is rookie tackle Tristan Wirfs, who won't turn 22 until after the 2020 season. Wirfs is one of nine rookies the Bucs' kept through Saturday's cuts, including five of their seven draft picks. Surprisingly, given the limited amount of time they had to make an impression compared to most seasons, four undrafted rookies made the initial 53-man roster: outside linebacker Cam Gill, wide receiver John Hurst, guard John Molchon and cornerback Parnell Motley.
Overall, the Buccaneers went slightly deeper on offense on their initial 53-man roster, keeping 26 players on that side of the ball compared to 24 on defense, with the last three spots going to the specialists. However, the very first iteration of the roster rarely stays intact for long; after players clear waivers on Sunday, some spots could turn over in the next few days. In addition, any players the Buccaneers kept through Saturday's cuts with the intention of then placing them on injured reserve would soon go on that list, possibly leading to the return of some players who didn't make the initial roster.
Besides the nine rookies, there are two other players on the list of 53 who could be on an NFL opening-day roster for the first time: outside linebacker Quinton Bell and defensive lineman Patrick O'Connor. O'Connor has already played 11 regular-season games for the Buccaneers, including eight last year, but Bell could see his first NFL action. He actually did make it through the Saturday cuts last year, too, but was waived a day later after the Bucs claimed T.J. Logan off waivers. Bell was a seventh-round pick by the Raiders in 2019 who spent most of his rookie season on practice squads in Oakland and Tampa.