Pictures of the Buccaneers opponents for the 2017 season.
Rookie safety Isaiah Johnson spent the entire 2016 season on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice squad, and now he'll have another chance to crack the active roster in 2016.
On Monday, the Buccaneers announced the signings of six players to reserve/future contracts, all of whom finished the season on the team's practice squad: Johnson, guard Josh Allen, guard Michael Liedtke, cornerback Cody Riggs, running back Blake Sims and tight end Tevin Westbrook.
Practice squad contracts expire as soon as the regular season ends, so the team moved quickly to keep these six in the organization. Reserve/future contracts allow all teams in the NFL, even those who are still in the playoffs, to sign existing free agents for the upcoming season. Those contracts take effect when the new league year begins in March.
Johnson is the only player who was on Tampa Bay's practice squad for all 17 weeks of the season, though in the case of five others that was partially because they eventually received promotions to the active roster. Head Coach Dirk Koetter praised Johnson late in the season and it's clear the team is eager to see what he can do after a full offseason of development.
A behind-the-scenes look at the Buccaneers' Week 17 victory over the Panthers.
The Buccaneers originally signed Johnson as an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina in May. He played in and started 36 games over three seasons for the Gamecocks, amassing 222 tackles and seven interceptions.
Allen, an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana-Monroe in 2014, has spent significant portions of each of the last three seasons in Tampa, including stints on the practice squad and the active roster. He also briefly appeared on Green Bay's practice squad as a rookie. After 11 weeks on the practice squad in 2016, Allen was promoted to the active roster, though he was inactive for the two games he was with that crew. He returned to the practice squad last week.
Liedtke first signed with Tampa Bay on November 22, coincidentally taking Allen's spot on the practice squad after the latter's promotion. He was previously on the Cleveland Browns' practice squad in October and went to camp this summer with the New York Jets. Liedtke played his college ball at Illinois State and has also spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins, after signing with Miami as an undrafted free agent in 2015.
Riggs also joined the Bucs on November 22. He has regular-season NFL experience, playing in 14 games for the Tennessee Titans over the 2015-16 campaigns and recording seven tackles, two passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He originally signed with Tennessee as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2015, making the active roster out of his first NFL training camp.
Sims is attempting to make it as a running back in the NFL after playing quarterback in his senior season at Alabama and throwing for a school-record 3,487 yards, along with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He played running back his first three seasons for the Crimson Tide and recorded 705 yards and nine touchdowns on 145 carries (4.9 avg.). After going undrafted in 2015, Sims had tryouts in Green Bay and Washington but ended up in the Canadian Football League to begin his pro career. He also had a brief stint on the Atlanta Falcons' practice squad in September.
Westbrook spent much of his 2015 rookie season on Tampa Bay's practice squad after first entering the league as an undrafted free agent with the Titans. The University of Florida product went to training camp with the Buccaneers this past summer and came back to the team's practice squad for the final 10 weeks of the 2016 season. As a Gator he had 11 catches for 11 yards and two touchdowns after converting to offense from the defensive line.