The Tampa Bay Buccaneers knew they were going to have to cut some promising players to get down to the right 53-man combination for the regular season. Fortunately, they didn't have to completely part ways with all of them.
On Monday, the Buccaneers revealed the first eight members of their 10-man practice squad, with five spots filled by young players who went to training camp with the team. Those eight players are:
- CB Jude Adjei-Barimah
- CB Imoan Claiborne
- WR Kaelin Clay
- T Edawn Coughman
- WR Donteea Dye
- DE Howard Jones
- T Terren Jones
- LB Josh Keyes
Claiborne, Jones and Jones are the three newcomers; Claiborne was recently waived by the St. Louis Rams, Howard Jones by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Terren Jones by the Buffalo Bills. Claiborne is a rookie who signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of Northwestern State in May. Howard Jones went undrafted in 2014 out of Shepherd University, a Division II school in West Virginia, and was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He spent his entire rookie season on the Steelers' practice squad. Terren Jones first came into the league with Atlanta in 2013 as an undrafted free agent out of Alabama State and split his rookie year between the Falcons' practice squad and active roster. He has also been on practice squads in Washington and Baltimore and was on Tennessee's active roster for the latter part of last season.
Of the five players who spent the 2015 preseason in Tampa, four are rookies, with Coughman the lone exception. Coughman has spent time with five NFL teams since first joining the Seattle Seahawks in 2012, including a brief stint with the Buccaneers last summer after he was claimed off waivers from Buffalo.
Clay was the Buccaneers' sixth-round draft pick out of Utah and an early candidate for the punt and kickoff return jobs. Adjei-Barimah, Dye and Keyes are all rookies who signed with the Buccaneers at varying points between the draft and the start of training camp.
Dye caught seven passes for 82 yards during the preseason while Clay's contributions all came in the kicking game, with six punt returns for 32 yards and five kickoff returns for 96 yards. Keyes combined eight tackles with two tackles for loss and a forced fumble on defense while also tying for second on the team with three stops on special teams. Adjei-Barimah contributed two defensive tackles.
While NFL practice squads tend to be fluid during the regular season, with teams adding and subtracting players based on needs that arise on the active roster, they are an excellent avenue to a more permanent job for young players. Last year, nine players appeared on the Bucs' 53-man roster after first spending time on the team's practice squad. Six of those nine went to training camp with the Buccaneers this summer, with two (DE T.J. Fatinikun and G Matthew Masifilo) making the active roster.