The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have turned their attention to their 2015 roster. Whether that's a trip to the Rose Bowl for General Manager Jason Licht or the beginning of a full-team evaluation for Head Coach Lovie Smith, there's no reason to delay the process.
Technically, the current league year – and thus all active player contracts – extends into March. However, players without contracts at the end of the regular season don't have to wait until the spring to sign new deals, thanks to a type of NFL transaction called a "reserve/futures" contract.
The Buccaneers, in fact, have already signed seven men to such deals, five of them players who finished the 2015 season on the team's practice squad. Practice squad contracts automatically expire at the end of the regular season, making those players instant free agents. The seven players signed to reserve/futures contracts are:
- S Shelton Johnson
- WR Chandler Jones
- QB Seth Lobato
- DT Matthew Masifilo
- T Matt Patchan
- CB Jocquel Skinner
- G Jeremiah Warren The purpose of a reserve/futures contract is to allow a player to sign for the upcoming season without having to wait until that league year officially begins. Often, as was the case for Johnson, Jones, Masifilo, Patchan and Warren, it's a quick transaction to keep promising practice squad prospects around for another year of development.
Lobato and Skinner are new arrivals, and they will hope to follow in the footsteps of kicker Patrick Murray. Last year, Murray was one of 12 players the Bucs signed to reserve/futures deals in the early hours of January. The young kicker eventually beat out incumbent veteran Connor Barth for the Bucs' job and produced an outstanding rookie season.
DT Matthew Masifilo spent most of the 2014 season on the Bucs' practice squad, earning a brief midseason promotion
Of the five players re-signed from the practice squad, Masifilo has the most tenure with the Buccaneers. He joined the team in 2013 and spent nearly all of this past season on the practice squad. Masifilo did get a midseason promotion to the active roster, appearing in his first regular-season NFL game in Week Nine at Cleveland. Johnson is the most recent addition, just joining the team in the final week of the regular season. Jones, Patchan and Warren all came aboard at varying points in November and December. Patchan is a Tampa native who played his prep ball at Armwood High School and Warren played collegiately at the nearby University of South Florida.
Skinner is also from the Bay area; he played his high school football at Boca Ciega High before heading off to Bethel University, an NAIA school, in Tennessee. Skinner had a tryout with the Buccaneers prior to the 2014 draft, and eventually signed as an undrafted free agent with the Dallas Cowboys. He was waived prior to training camp.
Lobato first signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent last spring but ended up in training camp with the Miami Dolphins. He spent roughly half of the 2014 season on Miami's practice squad. Lobato originally went to the University of Colorado as a walk-on but eventually transferred to Northern Colorado.