Tim Jennings will start practicing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday, but Demar Dotson won't be back on the field for at least six more weeks.
On Monday, the Buccaneers made official the signing of Jennings, the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback formerly of the Chicago Bears who agreed to terms with the team last Thursday. The Bucs opened a spot on the 53-man roster by placing Demar Dotson on the injured reserve list, designated to return.
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That last qualifier is a significant one. While landing on I.R. usually signals the end of a player's season, each team is allowed one "designated for return" tag per year. A player with that designation must sit out at least eight weeks before returning to game action. He can begin practicing after six weeks. In Dotson's case, it means he will miss at least seven games, as the Buccaneers' bye comes during the first half of the season.
Dotson had started Tampa Bay's last 47 games at right tackle and was one of the team's most consistent performers on the front line during that span. Veteran Gosder Cherilus, who was signed by the Buccaneers after Dotson suffered a knee injury in the preseason opener in Minnesota, is expected to man the right tackle position in Dotson's absence. Cherilus has started 100 regular-season games over seven seasons in Detroit and Indianapolis, all at right tackle. If rookies Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet start at left tackle and right guard, respectively, as expected, the team will head into 2015 with three new starters among their front five.
While Dotson's injury hurts the team's depth at offensive tackle, the addition of Jennings, in contrast, brings valued experience to the Bucs' group of cornerbacks. In addition to returning starters Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner, the team now has Jennings, Mike Jenkins and Sterling Moore in reserve roles (Moore is expected to hold down the nickel back job, which is essentially a third starter). All three of those reserves have been in the league at least five years and have starting experience.
Check out photos of the Buccaneers' current roster.
The 5-8, 185-pound Jennings specifically has starting experience in Lovie Smith's defense, having played three seasons (2010-12) under Smith in Chicago. Jennings earned the first of his two Pro Bowl nods in that final season with Smith while lead in the NFL with nine interceptions. He went back to the Pro Bowl in 2013 after a four-interception campaign in which he returned two of his picks for touchdowns. In all, he has played in 131 NFL games with 95 starts and recorded 462 tackles, 20 interceptions (three returned for touchdowns), 78 passes defensed and eight forced fumbles.
The Buccaneers will practice on Monday afternoon as they begin preparations for their season-opening game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, September 13 at Raymond James Stadium.