Derek Hardman, who filled in admirably for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers late in his 2010 rookie season and who has been with the team for all but one week of the last 29 months, is back on the team's active roster. On Friday, the Buccaneers re-signed the third-year guard/tackle and released veteran defensive end Wallace Gilberry.
Hardman, originally an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Kentucky in 2010, made it through the two rounds of league-wide cuts to the Buccaneers' 53-man roster at the beginning of the month. However, he was released on Wednesday of last week when the team elected to re-sign veteran cornerback Brandon McDonald in the wake of injuries to E.J. Biggers and Anthony Gaitor.
Hardman's return is no surprise as the 6-6, 300-pound lineman has been a valuable reserve on the Buccaneers' line for most of the last two seasons. He started his rookie campaign on the practice squad but was promoted to the active roster in late October of 2010. In December, after a season-ending injury to Pro Bowler Davin Joseph, Hardman stepped in as the starter at right guard and manned that spot for the final four games of the year. Tampa Bay won three of those four games in the midst of a very tight playoff run. During that stretch, the Buccaneers' offense averaged 143 rushing yards per game and 381 yards of offense per outing overall.
In 2011, Hardman once again earned a spot on the active roster but was inactive for 13 of the team's 16 games. This August, he played in all four preseason games with one start at right guard.
Hardman's return gives the team nine offensive linemen overall and adds a second reserve for the interior line to Cody Wallace. Tackles Demar Dotson and Jamon Meredith fill out the remainder of the Bucs' current O-Line depth behind the starting crew.
The Buccaneers signed Gilberry, who played his previous four NFL seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, in June. He was subsequently released on September 1 but returned to the Bucs' roster two days later.