On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived second-year wide receiver Jaelon Darden and released rookie tackle Dylan Cook and veteran cornerback Ryan Smith from the practice squad. There were no corresponding additions so the Buccaneers will head into Week 14 with one open spot on the active roster and two on the practice squad.
A fourth-round draft pick out of North Texas in 2021, Darden has been the team's primary punt returner for the majority of the past two seasons. He has averaged 9.4 yards on 50 punt returns, including a 10.6-yard average on 30 returns this season. Darden also recently took over kickoff return duties with the team choosing to let rookie running back Rachaad White focus on his growing role on offense. In two seasons, Darden has averaged 20.3 yards on 21 kickoff returns.
The Bucs' active roster still features six wide receivers, and 2022 free agency addition Russell Gage returned to action this past Monday after missing four games with a hamstring injury. Through the first 12 games, Darden had only logged 57 snaps on offense, resulting in two catches for 26 yards.
Cook signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent out of Montana in May. He has been on the practice squad for the entire season. Smith, originally a fourth-round pick by the Buccaneers in the 2016 draft, returned for a second stint with the team after spending his first five seasons in Tampa, where he was primarily a special teams ace. He signed with the Bucs' practice squad on October 31 and was elevated for the Week 10 game against Seattle in Munich.