The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added another option to catch passes Thursday night as they head into a showdown in Chicago with a hobbled crew of wideouts. On Thursday afternoon, the team chose to elevate rookie wide receiver Josh Pearson, along with veteran cornerback Ross Cockrell, from their practice squad to make them eligible for the game against the Bears.
The Buccaneers have already ruled out wide receivers Chris Godwin and Justin Watson for Thursday's game and both Scotty Miller and Mike Evans are considered questionable to suit up. Before Pearson's elevation, Tampa Bay was down to three certainties at the position for this week's game: Jaydon Mickens, Cyril Grayson and Tyler Johnson. Grayson was just signed off the practice squad this week but he did play in the Bucs' Week Two win over Carolina after being elevated from the practice squad. None of those three has a reception this season.
Elevating Pearson and Cockrell increases the Buccaneers' pool of available players for their game against the Bears to 55. They can keep 48 of those 54 players active for the game, as long as eight of them are offensive linemen.
Pearson joined the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent out of Jacksonville State in the spring. He played in 26 games for the Gamecocks, recording 126 receptions for 943 yards and a school-record 30 touchdowns.
Cockrell was signed to the Bucs' practice squad in Week Three, with one of the team's six veteran exceptions on that 16-man unit. He has played in 68 regular-season games with 43 starts for the Bills, Steelers, Giants and Panthers. Last year, he started 11 games for Carolina and recorded 62 tackles, two interceptions and eight passes defensed. He has seven career interceptions, with a career-high three for New York in 2017.
The option to elevate up to two players from the practice squad for each game is new in 2020 and the Buccaneers have made use of it in each of the first five weeks. After only elevating running back Kenjon Barner for the last two games, the Bucs used both options in Week Five. They do not have to make Pearson or Cockrell active on game day but most of their elevated players so far this season have also been active for the game.
A team can only elevate a specific player twice during the season. This is the first elevation for both Pearson and Cockrell. After the game they will automatically revert to the practice squad without having to pass through waivers.