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Deep Cuts

The Bucs made the difficult decisions they had to on Saturday afternoon, waiving 22 hard-working players in order to get down to the regular-season limit of 53


The players released on Saturday, including FB Carey Davis, were not let go for a lack of effort

Cutdown Day: It isn't easy, but it also isn't optional.

On Saturday, the Buccaneers trimmed their roster by 22 players, complying with the NFL-mandated regular-season limit of 53 men by Saturday's 6:00 p.m. ET deadline. In the process, a number of very difficult decisions were made involving players who had invested a lot of hard work into the team.

The construction of the 2006 roster is not necessarily over; in fact, that process usually continues throughout the season. But the Bucs are down to the necessary limit after beginning the day at 75 players. With this year's camp roster among the most talented the Bucs have ever fielded, it wasn't easy to get down to 53, and the team took its decision-making right down to the wire. In the end, 21 players were released and veteran tackle Torrin Tucker was placed on injured reserve.

Perhaps most notable among the 22 players removed from the active roster were wide receiver Edell Shepherd and linebacker Marquis Cooper. Of those 22, 10 were either rookies or first-year players. Among the notable non-rookies who made the team who weren't on the roster in 2005 are wide receiver David Boston, linebackers Jamie Winborn and Antoine Cash and fullback Jerald Sowell.

Here's how the Bucs met the 53-man limit:

Mark AnelliTE2Waived
Charles BennettDERWaived
Jon BradleyDT2Waived
Anthony BryantDT2Waived
Steve CargileS1Waived
Jonathan ClinkscaleC/G1Waived
Marquis CooperLB3Waived
Carey DavisFB1Waived
Dwight EllickCB1Waived
Toniu FonotiG5Termination of Vested Veteran
Chas GessnerWR1Waived
Scott JacksonOL2Waived
Tim MassaquoiTERWaived
Donte NicholsonS2Waived
James PatrickCB1Waived
Rick RazzanoFB2Waived
Edell ShepherdWR3Waived
Anthony TrucksLBRWaived
Torrin TuckerT4Placed on Injured Reserve
Derek WatsonRB1Waived
Andrew WilliamsDE3Waived
Keith WrightDE/DT2Waived

While the younger players were simply waived, Fonoti was terminated as a vested veteran. The primary difference between those two categories is that Fonoti is not subject to the waiver-claim process as are the rest of the players; he immediately becomes a free agent.

Despite the common references to the "final" roster, even in this space, Saturday's moves don't necessarily spell the end of the team's relationship with many of the released players. Of the 21 players who were released on the cutdown-to-53 date last September, one is now on this year's active roster: safety Kalvin Pearson. Pearson, center Scott Jackson and running back Derek Watson actually returned to the team during the 2005 season, while cornerback James Patrick and defensive end Andrew Williams spent the whole season on the practice squad. A full 10 of the 21 players cut last September were back in training camp with the Bucs this summer.

The team's toughest decisions may have come at wide receiver, where no fewer than 11 players performed well in training camp and the preseason. In the end, the Bucs kept seven of them – Boston, Michael Clayton, Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard, Mark Jones, Maurice Stovall and Paris Warren.

The Bucs kept seven linebackers, too, an indication of the depth at that position and the importance of those players to special teams. Mallard and Cash are considered strong contributors in the kicking game.

The Bucs did cut two more of their 2006 draft picks after waiving seventh-round CB Justin Phinisee on Tuesday, as fellow seventh-rounders Bennett and Massaquoi were waived. Also, sixth-round TE T.J. Williams was placed on injured reserve in August. Six of the team's 10 newest draftees did make the 53-man roster: Stovall, Jenkins, G Davin Joseph, T Jeremy Trueblood, CB Alan Zemaitis and QB Bruce Gradkowski.

Of the 22 men released on Saturday, seven saw action for the Buccaneers during the 2005 regular season.

Often, the decisions made on the final cut-down day do not fully shape the opening-day roster, in part because cuts across the league occasionally lead to interesting players hitting the waiver wire on Saturday night. Last year, for instance, the team kept all three of its drafted wide receivers –Warren, J.R. Russell and Larry Brackins – but in the next two days released Brackins in order to make room for Jones. Jones, a receiver/return man drafted by the Buccaneers in 2004, had spent his rookie season with the New York Giants but became available to Tampa Bay again when the Giants waived him on the final cutdown day.

It is also wise to pay attention to the practice squad moves the team makes in the next few days. Each NFL team is allowed to form a practice squad of up to eight men; these players may practice with the team during the week but are not eligible to play in games. Last year, the Bucs started their practice squad with, among others, Jackson, Pearson and Watson and, as mentioned, all three eventually made it onto the active roster.

Two of the players that made the 53-man roster were on different teams when the week began. The Bucs reacquired T Cornell Green on Tuesday when he was released by the Denver Broncos, then traded for New York Jets TE Doug Jolley on Wednesday. Both Green and Jolley were still around after Saturday's cuts.

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