The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed fifth-year defensive tackle John Hughes on Monday, adding some much needed depth to a D-Line that has been significantly thinned by injuries. The Buccaneers also released two players, linebacker Josh Keyes and wide receiver Freddie Martino, meaning there is an open spot on the 53-man roster.
Hughes, a third-round pick by Cleveland in 2012, played in 53 games with 10 starts for the Browns, including this year's season-opener, before he was released on September 20. He was most recently with the New England Patriots, though he did not appear in a game after signing on September 27. The Patriots released Hughes last Saturday.
The Buccaneers lost Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and rookie defensive end Noah Spence to calf and shoulder injuries, respectively, in the first half of their Week Four game against Denver. With Robert Ayers already inactive due to an ankle sprain and fellow defensive ends Jacquies Smith and George Johnson on injured reserve, the team was down to just five available linemen in the second half on Sunday, and that was before defensive tackle Clinton McDonald missed the last six minutes due to cramps. At one point, the Buccaneers used linebacker Daryl Smith as a defensive end for a series of pass-rush snaps.
The Week Five status of McCoy, Ayers and Spence will not be known until later in the week, but Hughes could see immediate action when the Buccaneers play at Carolina on Monday night. The team has already had to give a large number of snaps to undrafted rookies DaVonte Lambert and Channing Ward and had to lean heavily on McDonald and William Gholston for extra reps on Sunday.
Hughes (6-2, 304) has recorded 3.0 sacks, 108 tackles, three passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in his NFL career. Last year, the University of Cincinnati product played in all 16 games for Cleveland and made three starts, contributing 24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Keyes has played in all four games this season, solely on special teams, and is the team leader with three kick-coverage tackles. Martino started the season on Tampa Bay's practice squad but was promoted to the active roster on September 21 and has seen action in the last two contests without recording a catch.