The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' late-season roster churning, spawned by a run of recent injuries, continued in Week 17 as the team promoted cornerback John Franklin and wide receiver Jaydon Mickens to the active roster from the practice squad on Tuesday. To make room on the 53-man roster, the Buccaneers waived wide receiver Ishmael Hyman and tight end Jordan Leggett.
If Franklin is on the 46-man active list on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, he could become the fifth player to make his NFL debut with the Buccaneers in the last three weeks. Hyman saw his first career regular-season action in Week 15 in Detroit and last Saturday's game against Houston included the debuts of tight end Codey McElroy and wide receivers Cyril Grayson and Spencer Schnell. Mickens has played in 16 regular-season games with Jacksonville but only arrived in Tampa five days ago as a practice squad addition.
Franklin has been working as a cornerback on the Bucs' practice squad for the past six weeks but has also drawn at least one other practice-field assignment, and Head Coach Bruce Arians hinted on Monday that he's searching for the right way to utilize the young player's skills. Franklin, who played quarterback at multiple different college stops, ran the scout team offense in practice last week so that Buccaneer defenders could get a feel for playing against a mobile quarterback like Deshaun Watson.
"Johnathan Franklin did an unbelievable job being Deshaun Watson last week at quarterback," said Arians. "He gave our defense a tremendous look. [He] made me think about, 'Hmm, what do we want to do with him?' He's really a corner, but he's been a quarterback and he's been a receiver. He's a really good athlete – it's just finding a niche for him."
Franklin (6-1, 186) originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Chicago in 2018 and went to camp with the Bears each of the past two summers. He also spent the last six weeks of his rookie season on Chicago's practice squad. Franklin finished his college career at Florida Atlantic in 2017-18 as a graduate transfer from Auburn and also spent time at Florida State and East Mississippi Community College. Franklin was also selected by the Dallas Renegades in the 2020 XFL draft last month. He played quarterback at each of his first three college stops but was a runner and receiver at FAU, running 16 times for 229 yards and two touchdowns and adding seven receptions for 95 yards and a score.
Prior to joining the Buccaneers, Mickens (5-11, 170) most recently spent training camp with the Carolina Panthers this past summer. The former University of Washington standout entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Oakland Raiders in 2016 and spent his entire rookie season on Oakland's practice squad. He ended up on Jacksonville's practice squad in 2017 but got a promotion to the active roster in October. He played the last half of that season and the first half of 2018 before landing on injured reserve and appeared in 16 games with six receptions for 77 yards and two touchdowns. He also averaged 8.9 yards on 39 punt returns and 21.1 yards on eight kickoff returns.
At Washington, Mickens played in 53 games and totaled 203 receptions for 2,187 yards and 12 touchdowns, in addition to picking up 190 yards on 32 career carries.
Hyman was on the Bucs' practice squad for nine weeks before being promoted to play in the last two games. Leggett went to training camp with the Buccaneers and spent the first half of the season on the team's practice squad. He was promoted to the active roster in Week Nine but was a game-day inactive for each of the next eight games.