Less than an hour before they need to get their team pared down to 53 players for the regular season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have actually added to the roster.
The Buccaneers have acquired fourth-year offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins from the Pittsburgh Steelers in a swap of 2021 draft picks, with Pittsburgh getting the Bucs' sixth-rounder and sending back a seventh-rounder. The terms of the trade can elevate based on how many games Hawkins is active for in 2019.
The Steelers selected Hawkins out of LSU in the fourth round in 2016. Hawkins lost his rookie season to a knee injury and also spent last year on injured reserve due to a quad injury. In between, he played five games in 2017, with one start, often coming in as the sixth offensive lineman in jumbo packages. This summer, Hawkins was fighting for a job in a deep group of Pittsburgh linemen.
Where Pittsburgh dealt from depth the Buccaneers added to a position that was in need of the same. The starting five are set but there is little experience behind that group outside of Earl Watford and Caleb Benenoch. In the preseason finale at Dallas on Thursday night, first-year man Cole Boozer was the starting left tackle as the second-team line filled in for the first group.
Hawkins started all three of his seasons at LSU before declaring early for the NFL draft, where he was the 123rd player chosen overall. The 6-5, 305-pound blocker started 25 games at right tackle and 12 at left tackle and could be a candidate for the swing-tackle reserve spot on game days. In 2015, Hawkins' blocking helped the Tigers average 256.8 rushing yards per game to lead the SEC. He hails from Baldwin, Louisiana.
The countdown to season kickoff is on! The Bucs are kicking off the NFL's 100th season with a FREE Tim McGraw pregame concert for all fans with a ticket to the home opener on Sept. 8! Get your tickets today.