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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Updates: May 2023

Keep informed with our daily updates: News, notes and more throughout the month of May


May 31 Updates

The Buccaneers are in their second week of organized team activity practices (OTAs), which are voluntary but so far have been attended by a heavy majority of the 90-man offseason roster. On Tuesday, that included defensive lineman Vita Vea, who will be at the center of a reimagined defensive front this season.

The Bucs used the 19th-overall pick in this year's draft to nab Pittsburgh defensive lineman Calijah Kancey, whose most notable for his explosive first step and his tactical approach to beating opponents. His addition adds a new dimension to the Bucs' interior pass rush and likely also solidifies a role for the team's top pick in 2022, Logan Hall. In base packages, those two will likely get a lot of snaps flanking Vea on the nose.

And having Vea on the field in May is giving the new teammates an early opportunity to build chemistry.

"It's big," said Head Coach Todd Bowles of Vea's presence at OTAs, which is a statement that could also be taken literally. "They've got to develop some camaraderie, obviously. You've got speed and power and you've got a power guy. It'll be different for them to learn under each other, but to have him out here and those guys learning from him is great."

Though the 6-1, 281-pound Kancey is built differently than the kind of interior linemen the Bucs have generally deployed during Bowles' tenure with the team, that doesn't make him a liability in run defense. Bowles believes Kancey will spend enough time on the other side of the line of scrimmage to make a big difference in that regard.

"It can have a huge impact," said the coach. "You get more tackle for losses, which means you get less runs and you get more passes. We're trying to play on the [other] side of the ball more. In the past, we've been bigger and heavier and stouter. Now we have some stoutness and we have some explosion up there. If those things can happen, it frees up everybody else."

CLICK HERE to hear all of Coach Bowles' thoughts after Tuesday's OTAs.

TAMPA, FL - May 24, 2023 - Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of The Tampa Bay Buccaneers during OTAs at AdventHealth Training Center. Photo By Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

May 30 Updates

At some point before the 2023 season opener in Minnesota on September 10, Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles will decide whether his starting quarterback is Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask. That decision may come later rather than sooner because there will be a lot of evidence to scrutinize in the months in between, particularly when the preseason games arrive. And Bowles and company are going to be analyzing it all.

"From an analyzing standpoint, again it's the grasp of the offense, it's the reading of the defense," Said Bowles. "It's not necessarily making the big play but the right play. Then it comes down to moxie, it comes down to intelligence – in-game intelligence and adjustments and fits and film work. You can see who the team galvanizes around and who's ready to play the first game and you make a decision from there. It's constant analyzation, whether it's small or whether it's big – it's constant analysis from now up until we name a starter.

"You analyze them through everything, obviously – from meetings to field, obviously, the competition from a throwing standpoint to grasping the offense, making the right throws, understanding it overall. It comes down to making plays at the end and who has a better command of the offense."

So the quarterbacks will be under a microscope, but Trask said that wouldn't lead to him putting too much scrutiny on himself.

"You can sit there and try to overanalyze yourself, but at the end of the day, you just have to be yourself and trust yourself," he said. "If you're doing the right thing, then you shouldn't have anything to worry about. If you know you're coming on time and being the best leader you can, and the best teammate, you don't have to sit there and overanalyze yourself. Just be who you are, and I think the guys will really respect that."

CLICK HERE for Kyle Trask's take on the Bucs' new offensive scheme.

TAMPA, FL - May 23, 2023 - Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of The Tampa Bay Buccaneers during OTAs at AdventHealth Training Center. Photo By Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

May 23 Updates

Baker Mayfield's decision to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March gave him a shot at regaining his footing as a starting quarterback in the NFL, as he is in a wide-open contrast with 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask. It also gave Mayfield an opportunity to work with a gifted collection of pass-catchers.

The Buccaneers don't have a lot of experienced receivers and tight ends behind their veteran trio of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage, but they've added some speed with the likes of sixth-round pick Trey Palmer and so far Mayfield likes what he sees.

"Honestly, I'm truly impressed," said Mayfield. "Obviously, we've got two great veterans. Russ had a little bit of an injury last week, but he was doing really well before that. We've got a ton of speed, a lot of young speed. I'm just trying to get these guys to find their roles and find their place in this system. We talk about the speed that we have – our tight ends can roll, as well. We're excited about what we can be with all of the weapons that we have."

The Bucs' offseason program started in mid-April but the team held its first real practice, with offense facing defense, on Tuesday at the start of Phase III. While the 10 OTAs the Bucs will conduct over the next three weeks are completely voluntary and some veteran players choose to pursue their own offseason regimens, Mayfield did enjoy throwing to Godwin on Tuesday.

"He's got that fearlessness to run across the middle and make these catches and go out and dig people in in the blocking game," said Mayfield. "That's the greatest part about this system is it puts people in positions to keep the defense off guard. Those guys will line up in the slot. Our tight ends will go out wide and we will do certain things to get tells in the defense. All of our skill players are smart enough to be able to handle that and do it at a high level."

And he's very much looking forward to teaming up with Evans.

"He's a great guy first and foremost, a true competitor," said Mayfield. "I think people disregard [his speed]. He's obviously a taller receiver and a longer guy, but he can still move. His speed will catch you off guard. He is a special player and has been for a long time, so I am excited to get to play with him."

CLICK HERE for more of Mayfield's thoughts about the Bucs and Tuesday's practice.

Footballs sit on the field before an NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

May 16 Updates

The Buccaneers signed three players on Tuesday who had participated in their rookie minicamp on tryout contracts, and now they've added fourth. On Tuesday, the team inked defensive lineman C.J. Brewer, who played his college ball at Coastal Carolina.

Brewer first entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Buffalo Bills a year ago. He spent most of the 2022 season on Buffalo's practice squad and was briefly promoted to the active roster in December, appearing in two games and recording two tackles. Brewer most recently played 10 games for the Houston Roughnecks in the CFL, recording 17 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

The addition of Brewer puts the Buccaneers' offseason roster at its max capacity of 90 players.

CLICK HERE for details on the other tryout players who earned spots on the roster.


May 15 Updates

The Buccaneers will have a new starting quarterback in 2023 following the retirement of Tom Brady. Third-year man Kyle Trask, a second-round pick in the 2021 draft, is getting his first shot at winning that job, but he has competition from free agent acquisition Baker Mayfield. Both passers have been assured that they are on a level playing field and the one who performs the best between now and Week One will win the job.

Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales does not believe that decision needs to happen soon.

"I don't think we need to rush to make any decisions, is my opinion," he said. "Wait as long as you can, as long as possible. Our offense and defense don't need us to name a starter [right away]. Trust me. We've got studs up front on the offensive line – veteran presence – we've got veteran presence at the wide receiver position, we've got a really good group of backs there. The defense is fantastic, and the way we're building it, even with the draft. This is not a team that's like, 'We've got to know who the starter is going to be so that we can move forward and figure out who we're going to be.' I don't think so. I think the way we're going to play it [is] I'll have both guys ready to be really successful and efficient in what we're doing."

CLICK HERE for a closer look at the Bucs' current group of quarterbacks.


May 13 Updates

This week, the Buccaneers supplemented their eight-man draft class by signing 18 undrafted rookies, deals that became official on Friday when the newcomers signed their contracts at the AdventHealth Training Center. On Saturday, they added one more player to that list: Syracuse running back Sean Tucker.

Tucker (5-9, 207) produced 3,804 yards from scrimmage across 33 games for the Orange in three seasons as a starter, including 3,182 on the ground. He followed up a 1,496-yard, 12-touchdown campaign in 2021 with another 1,060 rushing yards and 11 scores last fall. He was a first-team All-America selection as a sophomore after setting single-season school records for rushing yards and 100-yard games (nine).

CLICK HERE to read about the other 18 UDFAs signed by the Buccaneers.

TAMPA, FL - May 12, 2023 - Quarterback Kyle Vantrease #14 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during 2023 Rookie Mini Camp at AdventHealth Training Center. Photo By Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers made a roster move out of necessity on Tuesday, signing former Rams quarterback John Wolford. Until the addition of Wolford, the Bucs were only carrying two passers on the offseason roster, as Baker Mayfield was signed in March to compete with Kyle Trask for the starting job in 2023. The Buccaneers absolutely needed a third quarterback for training camp and they have generally carried three during the regular season as well.

Do they need a fourth option at the position? In the four seasons that Todd Bowles has been the Bucs' defensive coordinator or head coach, the Bucs have always taken four quarterbacks into training camp. They've also routinely kept three on the 53-man roster and a fourth on the practice squad. For the past two seasons, that fourth passer was Ryan Griffin, but Griffin was not re-signed when his practice squad contract expired in January.

"It's semi-important having a fourth guy on the roster," said Bowles during the first day of the team's rookie minicamp. "We'll see how many are worthy of having that position or not having that position."

The Buccaneers are currently looking at a trio of potential options as Incarnate Word's Lindsey Scott, Georgia Southern's Kyle Vantrease and Southeastern's Kaylan Wiggins are all participating in the rookie camp on tryout contracts. Like many of the players getting their first taste of the NFL this weekend at the AdventHealth Training Center, they face steep learning curves but are getting an opportunity to show off their natural talents.

"They're learning the offense, nevertheless seeing a different defense and some of these guys in college don't even get playbooks," said Bowles. "They just post up there and they give them cards on the sideline. So, it's a lot of teaching and a lot of learning, but these guys are competitive, they show good fight, and you kind of see how they progress from learning from their mistakes as practice goes forward. But we really like them."

CLICK HERE for a photo gallery featuring the three rookie quarterbacks and roughly 60 other players participating in this weekend's camp.

TAMPA, FL - May 12, 2023 - Safety Chris Izien #29 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during 2023 Rookie Mini Camp at AdventHealth Training Center. Photo By Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

May 12 Updates

The Buccaneers selected eight players in the 2023 draft, including two edge rushers, a defensive lineman, an off-ball linebacker and a cornerback. Notably, they did not pick a safety. (Sixth-round defensive back Josh Hayes is starting off as a nickel back but could have some safety flexibility.)

 The reason that lack of a safety selection is notable is because the team's roster is particularly thin at that position right now. After Mike Edwards, Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan all hit the free agent market, the Bucs – who also lost starting safety Jordan Whitehead the year before – had only three safeties on their (at this point hypothetical) depth chart. Pro Bowler Antoine Winfield Jr. anchors that group but had only recent free agent acquisition Ryan Neal and 2022 undrafted free agent Nolan Turner in the safety room with him.

 Given that lack of depth, the Buccaneers were pleased to land a pair of safeties in the frenzied signing period for undrafted free agents as soon as the seven rounds of selections were over, inking Rutgers' Christian Izien and Iowa's Kaevon Merriweather. Head Coach Todd Bowles wouldn't have been surprised if both players had ended up elsewhere while the draft picks were still being made.

 "Christian reminds me of Winfield Jr. a little bit in the way he plays," said Bowles. "He's not the same guy but obviously he has a burst and he's very physical down there. Merriweather was a very good tackler in college. He's built up pretty good – you can mistake him for a linebacker if you're not careful. You look for those guys to learn the system and get on even footing and then kind of see where they are. But you kind of like the guys you've got coming in, especially if you got them in free agency. Those two guys could have been drafted."

 Izien played 50 games over five years at Rutgers and recorded 303 tackles, four interceptions and 19 passes defensed. Merriweather appeared in 45 games over five seasons at Iowa and compiled 118 tackles, four interceptions and 12 passes defensed.

 CLICK HERE to hear more of Coach Bowles' thoughts after the first day of rookie minicamp.

May 11 Updates

The Buccaneers are a long way from naming a starting five on their offensive line, which is definitely going to have a new look after the departures of Donovan Smith and Shaq Mason. After using Day Two picks on offensive linemen in each of the last three drafts (Robert Hainsey, Luke Goedeke and Cody Mauch), picking up an experienced starter in free agency in mid-April (Matt Feiler) and seeing some nice development from former undrafted acquisitions last season (Nick Leverett and Brandon Walton), there is a lot of depth to sort through. That will breed competition at many spots.

That said, the combined utterances on Wednesday of Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales, Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin and Offensive Line Coach Joe Gilbert made it clear that there is currently something of a Plan A taking shape. Here's what the Bucs' starting five could look like come September, if this particular comes to fruition:

Left tackle: Tristan Wirfs

"[W]e moved Tristan over to left and he's had an unbelievable attitude with it," said Gilbert. "Every day he looks better and better, more comfortable obviously that's going to be a process, but I think so far, it's coming along very well."

Left guard: Matt Feiler

"Adding Matt Feiler – when you see Tristan [Wirfs] and Matt lined up on the left side and when [Ryan] Jensen was here… those three guys next to each other is pretty impressive," said Canales.

Center: Ryan Jensen

"[O]bviously he'll be an integral part in the middle, but I think we're figuring out the edges," said Gilbert.

Right guard: Cody Mauch

"So we draft him and literally five minutes later I get a text from Ryan and Ryan goes, 'Am I going to like this guy?' and I go, 'Yeah,'" said Goodwin. "So I guess he saw some of the clips during the draft and he goes, 'Me, him, and Matt are going to 'F' some people up'. So that right there gets me excited and I'm just happy to have big guys, guys that eat up space. We look great when we get off the bus."

Right tackle: Luke Goedeke

"{W}e've got Luke out at tackle right now, kind of like when we played Atlanta, with him out there," said Gilbert. "So far, he's looked really good, looks comfortable."

Again, these decisions are far from final. The Buccaneers haven't even held a single OTA yet, and they won't put on pads and let the big guys bash into each other until training camp. As Canales noted: "It's early to make any decisions on what all is going to happen, but I feel really encouraged with the guys we have."

CLICK HERE to access all of the coaches' press conferences from Wednesday.


May 9 Updates

YaYa Diaby has made franchise history before ever stepping on the field as a Buccaneer.

On Tuesday, the Buccaneers revealed the jersey numbers for all eight of their 2023 draft picks, and while first-round defensive lineman Calijah Kancey will draw the most attention, it's Diaby's choice that really stands out. The Louisville edge rusher, selected in the third round, is the first Buccaneer player ever issued jersey number 0.

There's a simple reason for this: Before a rule change approved by the league earlier this offseason, the only available jersey numbers were 1-99. The new rule adds zero to that range, and Diaby apparently liked the sound of it.

Here are the eight newest Bucs and their jersey numbers, listed in the order of their selection in the draft:

94 DL Calijah Kancey

69 OL Cody Mauch

0 OLB YaYa Diaby

8 ILB SirVocea Dennis

87 TE Payne Durham

32 CB Josh Hayes

10 WR Trey Palmer

33 OLB Jose Ramirez

Kancey takes on a number that was most recently worn by OLB Carl Nassib last year. The most prominent 94-wearers in team history are all defensive ends: Steve White, Greg Spires and Adrian Clayborn. Spires was the starter at left end for the 2002 Super Bowl-winning team.

The other relatively recent rule changes regarding jersey numbers have also led to some unique selections this year. Players at most positions now have a much wider range of numbers from which to choose, which allowed Dennis to be the first defensive player ever to wear number 8 for the Bucs and Ramirez to be the first edge rusher ever to wear number 33.

CLICK HERE to view the Buccaneers' entire updated roster.

NASHVILLE, TN - August 20, 2022 - Defensive Lineman Logan Hall #90 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the preseason game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. The Buccaneers lost the game, 13-3. Photo By Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

May 5 Updates

When the Buccaneers used the 19th-overall pick in last week's draft to nab Pitt defensive lineman Calijah Kancey, it represented a different sort of addition to that position group. The Bucs have largely lined up very big men in the interior of their front since the arrival of Todd Bowles in 2019; last year, that group included the massive pairing of Vita Vea and Akiem Hicks.

Kancey measures in at 6-1 and 281 pounds, but adding a player of that size doesn't necessarily represent an evolution for the Bucs' defensive line strategy. What it does, if the Bucs' plans work out well, is make the pieces up front fit together better.

"You're talking about a guy who's really, really explosive – that's what we thought," said Defensive Line Coach Kacy Rodgers. "In the past couple years, we've been really big and powerful – now we want to tweak and add some quickness and more explosiveness. A lot of the ways we set our front, we create a lot of valuable matchups for certain people. So, we're just really looking for more explosiveness and quickness."

Indeed, an explosive first step is the most impressive part of Kancey's scouting report, and the Bucs believe his pass-rushing success (14.5 sacks over the past two seasons) can translate quite well to the NFL. Moreover, it solidifies how the team expects to utilize Vea and last year's top draft pick, Logan Hall.

"Before, in the past, we played like four and three, left and right, this and that," said Rodgers. "Now with these different pieces we've got, Logan can be in one position all the time and doesn't have to go all over. Kancey can be in one position all the time, Vita can be that way. We've been playing musical chairs in a lot of ways."

And if things work out as planned, Kancey will benefit in a big way from lining up in that spot next to Vea. Rodgers says he's the one most in line to reap the rewards of the Bucs' biggest defender drawing double teams.

"In the way we usually play, the guy who gets the most one-on-ones would be the role we see Kancey playing in," said Rodgers. "When we first got him in here, [Ndamukong] Suh fit in the same role. It's the same kind of situation where we're going to try and dictate which way the protection turns and create the one-on-ones for our edge guys here and our interior guy there."

CLICK HERE for more of Coach Rodgers' thoughts on the Bucs' defensive linemen.

May 4 Updates

Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. had an interception in the Buccaneers Super Bowl LV victory at the end of his rookie campaign and made the Pro Bowl at the end of his second season. Last year, he was asked to do even more, filling a hybrid role that saw him play safety in the base defense and then move into the slot in sub-packages. Winfield had a fine season, 80 tackles, 4.0 sacks and one interception, but the Bucs decided after his third season that he could have more impact if his preparation time wasn't divided.

So for the 2023 season, Winfield is preparing to focus exclusively on the free safety position. Someone else will pick up the nickel corner assignment after Winfield and Bowles came to the conclusion that the young star would be more effective sticking to his natural spot.

"What it really is, is this: when you play nickel, you have to play man, you have to play zone, you have to work stacks in man, you have to work bunches in man," said Safeties Coach Nick Rapone. "Most [slot] guys in the NFL are corners because what we do in practice is all adjustments. So, it's hard to get Antoine all that man [work] that he needed. So, Todd and him made the decision, what's best moving forward, let's move you back, let's take you out of the nickel.

 One of the things that made Winfield such an appealing option to fill the nickel role was, like his Hall of Fame predecessor Rondé Barber, he was excellent at chasing down the quarterback from the slot. The Buccaneers are definitely going to continue tapping into that talent line.

 "Now in base he's still going to be up close to the line of scrimmage [because] he's our best blitzer, by far," said Rapone. "The reason is what that job description is, yeah there wasn't enough time to do all the adjustments and then get him enough man work. So, Todd and him after the season sat down and that's what they came up with."

CLICK HERE to hear more about the Bucs' developments at safety from Coach Rapone.


May 3 Updates

Last season, the Buccaneers' substitution pattern for their inside linebacker group was very simple: Lavonte David and Devin White never came off the field, and nobody else at that position ever went on it.

White played 1,145 snaps of defense in 2022, the playoff game included, and David played 1,144. The five other off-ball linebackers who were rostered at one point or another combined to play 93 defensive snaps, and 90 of them came in Week 18 when the Bucs rested most of their starters in Atlanta.

Since White arrived as the fifth-overall pick in the 2019 draft, the middle of the Bucs' defense has been exclusively the David-White show. Unless either one was unavailable due to injury, which has been a relatively rare occurrence for both, those two took all the ILB snaps. When the Bucs went to various sub packages, it was corners or linemen who came and went. There were virtually no snaps with a third off-ball linebacker involved, aside from a couple goal-line jumbo packages.

It's possible that could change in 2023 with the arrival of fifth-round draft pick SirVocea Dennis, the former Pitt star. On Wednesday Inside Linebackers Coach Larry Foote was asked if the coaches might be devising some schemes to get him on the field along with David and White. His answer – "We're not going to do that" – was followed with a knowing wink at those in attendance.

Foote is definitely glad the Bucs landed Dennis in the draft, at a spot he thought it wasn't likely to happen.

"I was pleased," said Foote. "I was surprised we got him in the fifth round. Like every year, I was surprised [about] the other linebackers that were picked before him, but good for us. He's a smart guy. When you watch him on film you can tell he plays above the neck. He's a good athlete, he's savvy. He plays the game like it should be played. He can blitz – he's got some ability. He can wear a lot of hats for us and [I] was definitely excited about getting him."

If Dennis is involved involved in some new personnel groupings, it could be to use him to get after the passer. He had 7.0 sacks for the Panthers last year and a total of 15.0 over the last three seasons.

CLICK HERE to hear from SirVocea Dennis on his draft day.

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